Homer and Oral Tradition: The Formula, Part I

Oral Tradition, 1/2 (1986): 171-230
Homer and Oral Tradition:
The Formula, Part I
Mark W. Edwards
This survey of the formula in Homer is divided into ten sections; the
first five follow, the remainder will appear in a later issue of Oral Tradition.
The sections are arranged as follows:
§Bibliographies and surveys.
§The structure of the Homeric hexameter.
§The formula and the hexameter.
§The history of Homeric formulae: Homer, Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns,
and later poetry.
§Studies of specific formulae.
§Formulae and meaning.
§Analyses of formulae and tests for orality.
§Homer and the criticism of oral poetry.
§Future directions.
Each of the first nine sections is followed by a list of references; a few items
appear in more than one list. I have commented on most of the items, but for
reasons of space a few are merely listed. Reviews are normally not included,
and my knowledge of dissertations is usually limited to the synopses in
Dissertation Abstracts. There must be omissions, for which I apologize; I
will try to refer to them in later updates.1
§1: Bibliographies and Surveys
The fullest resource is the annual listing of articles, books, and reviews in
Marouzeau, which began with 1924 and currently appears about three years
after the year covered; the categories
Homer, Homerica, Homerici Hymni, and Hesiod are not further subdivided.
For the years 1930-70 the Marouzeau listings appear in Packard and Meyers
1974, consolidated as an alphabetical listing of authors and provided with a
subject index including entries under “Language,” “Meter,” “Poetics,” and
“Composition,” an index locorum, and an index of Homeric words. This is a
very valuable resource, which one hopes will be continued. The most recent
full bibliography to appear is Foley 1985, which unfortunately only became
available to me as I was completing the final version of my own survey.
This work contains over 1,800 annotated listings of work on oral poetry and
formulae in more than 90 language areas, preceded by a long Introduction
which summarizes the research done in different language areas from 1928
to 1982 (in three chronological divisions) and indicates some important
directions taken in recent work. Entries are alphabetized and coded to
show the areas studied, and each is summarized in about 3-4 sentences; in
a sampling of these annotations I found them to be accurate, perceptive, and
reliable. An index divided by language areas lists alphabetically all authors
who deal with (for example) Ancient Greek; there are no subdivisions.
Other surveys can best be mentioned in reverse chronological order.
The latest is Heubeck 1982, which has no separate section on formulae.
Foley 1981 briefly reviews M. Parry’s work and gives a full and detailed
survey of Lord’s work on both Homer and South Slavic. Holoka 1979 covers
the whole range of Homeric studies from 1971-77 (including reviews), with
sections on “Composition,” “Poetics, metrics,” and “Language, formulas,
word studies.” The listing is useful, but the summaries are here only about
a sentence in length. Latacz 1979 gives a fine summary of the history of
the theory that Homer was an oral poet from the publication of Wolf’s
Prolegomena in 1795 to the present, reprinting some of the most important
work and adding a 45-page bibliography, subdivided into “Bibliographies
and surveys after 1945,” “Selected publications before Milman Parry,” and
“Publications from Milman Parry onwards.” Pasorek 1977 continues a long
tradition of detailed surveys of all aspects of Homeric scholarship. Mette
1976, both a listing and a commentary, has sections on Metrics and Language.
Heubeck 1974 covers the years 1940-70 and lists works alphabetically by
author, following an introductory survey which includes sections on oral
poetry, language, and style. There are indices of names and subjects,
modern authors mentioned in the survey, Homeric words, Homeric
characters, and an index locorum. Holoka 1973 gives brief summaries of the
work of Milman Parry, Lord (very uncritically: “Lord proves, yet again, that
quantitative investigation of formulae can indeed enable us to differentiate
the truly oral from the literary imitation. In the process he debunks the
impressionistic assertion by G. S. Kirk, C. M. Bowra, and A. Parry that
Homeric poetry is formulaic to an extent that Yugoslavian is not” [263]),
and others. He also has sections on “Epithet,” “Formula,” and other topics.
The listing is useful, the summaries should be used with discretion. Haymes
1973 is an alphabetic listing by author’s name of work on oral poetry in all
languages. Hainsworth 1969 is a short review on contemporary knowledge
with sections on “Comparison,” “Formula,” “Verse,” and “Art.” Willcock
1967 is another good quick account of the position at that time. Dodds 1968
gives a very general overview of Parry’s work, placing it in the framework
of an excellent summary of twentieth-century Homeric scholarship. Lesky
1966 gives a fine survey of meter, language, and oral characteristics in a
very few pages. Combellack 1955 covers the years 1939-55, giving “what is
basically a discussion of trends in the main fields of Homeric activity” (18);
he has a short section on oral poetry (51-53).
Combellack 1955
F. M. Combellack. “Contemporary Homeric Scholarship: Sound or Fury?” Classical
Weekly, 49:17-26, 29-55.
Dodds 1968
E. R. Dodds. “Homer iii: Homer as Oral Poetry; iv: Homer and the Philologists.” In Fifty
Years (and Twelve) of Classical Scholarship. Ed. M. Platnauer (2nd revised ed.). Oxford:
Blackwell. pp. 13-24.
Foley 1981
J. M. Foley. “The Oral Theory in Context.” In Oral Traditional Literature: A Festschrift
for Albert Bates Lord. Ed. J. M. Foley. Columbus: Slavica Publishers. pp. 27-122.
Foley 1985
__________. Oral-Formulaic Theory and Research: An Introduction and Annotated
Bibliography. Garland Folklore Bibliographies, 6. New York: Garland Publishing.
Hainsworth 1969
J. B. Hainsworth. Homer. Greece and Rome: New Surveys in the Classics No. 3. Oxford:
Haymes 1973
E. R. Haymes. A Bibliography of Studies Relating to Parry’s and Lord’s Oral Theory.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Printing Office.
Heubeck 1974
A. Heubeck. Die homerische Frage. Erträge der Forschung, Band 27. Darmstadt:
Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.
Heubeck 1982
__________. “Zur neueren Homerforschung.” Gymnasium, 89:385-447.
Holoka 1973
J. P. Holoka. “Homeric Originality: A Survey.” Classical World, 66:257-93. Holoka 1979
Holoka 1979
__________. “Homer Studies 1971-1977.” Classical World, 73:65-150.
Latacz 1979
J. Latacz. Homer: Tradition und Neuerung. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche
Lesky 1966
A. Lesky. A History of Greek Literature. Trans. J. Willis and C. de Heer. London: Methuen.
pp. 58-65.
Marouzeau 1924J. Marouzeau (J. Ernst and others). L’Année philologique.
Mette 1976
H. J. Mette. “Homer 1971-1977.” Lustrum, 19:5-64.
Packard and Meyers 1974
D. W. Packard and T. Meyers. A Bibliography of Homeric Scholarship: Preliminary
Edition 1930-70. Malibu: Undena.
Pasorek 1977
G. Pasorek. “Forschungsbericht: Homer.” Anzeiger für die Altertumswissenschaft, 30:114.
Willcock 1967
M. M. Willcock. “The Present State of Homeric Studies.” Didaskalos, 2:59-69.
§ 2: The Structure of the Homeric Hexameter
After a brief review of some recent theories of the origin of the Homeric
hexameter, this section will deal with its structure and the ways in which
words and word-groups fit within its framework; of course this is intimately
connected with the characteristics of formulaic diction, which will be dealt
with in section 3. I do not attempt to cover theories of the nature of caesura
(for which see most recently Allen 1973:113-22) or of the nature of meter
and rhythm (for which see Devine and Stephens 1984, mentioned below,
which has superseded much previous work).
The question of the antiquity of Homeric formulae is very much
interconnected with that of the origin of the Greek hexameter, which has often
been discussed and is the subject of several significant recent studies. West
1973 considered that “dactylic verse was a South Mycenaean development
dating probably from the second half of the [second] millennium, while the
stereotyped stichic hexameter represents a further development in
the Ionian branch of the tradition, perhaps late Mycenaean, perhaps postmigration” (188); he claimed that the meter originated in a hemiepes (- u u
- u u -) plus a paroemiac (u - u u - u u - u). This view was strongly attacked
by Hoekstra (1981:33-53), who pointed out the difficulties caused for this
hypothesis by the juxtaposition of the alternative B1 and B2 caesurae (P
and T in Hoekstra’s terminology) after positions 5 and 5 1/2 (see below).
West’s indeterminate (anceps) syllable at the beginning of his paroemiac is
inadequate to account for these alternative (and most important) breaks in
the verse, and Hoekstra shows that there are a number of ancient-looking
formulae which end or begin at each of these alternative positions; he can
even provide (p. 45) a considerable list of alternative formulae of similar
meaning to fit before or after either B1 or B2 caesurae. It thus seems that
the old technique embraced the alternative positions. In addition, Hoekstra
lists a number of ancient-looking expressions which bridge the B caesura
(including Priamoio païs and similar forms), and points out that the
idea that the hexameter resulted from a coalescence of two short verses
can only be tenable if none of these expressions goes back to the earliest
singers. Nagy 1974 put forward an alternative theory, that the hexameter
arose from a pherecratean pattern (u u - u u - u) expanded by the insertion
of three dactyls. Nagy is aware of the problem of accounting for the B1
and B2 caesurae (p. 57f.), and ingeniously argues that they arise from the
junctions of formulae which were created for use in shorter verses, such
as the unexpanded pherecratean. He backs up this view with a full listing
of formulae which would fit into such verses, and alternative formulae
which show dactylic expansion of the kind he postulates as the origin of the
hexameter. His fundamental idea is that a traditional poetic language leads
to the crystallization of metrical formulae, which in turn affect the meter
and give rise to the caesurae and bridges, and he supports the old idea of a
phraseological correspondence between the Homeric kleos aphthiton and
a postulated Vedic śráva(s) ákṣitam (reconstructed from two other verbal
combinations), both deriving from an Indo-European prototype *klewos
ṇdhgwhitom (p. 1). These views are repeated, with additional arguments,
in Nagy 1979. Hoekstra (1981:40, note 36) does not find Nagy’s views
convincing. Peabody (1975:21f.) examines the relationship of the Greek
hexameter to the Iranian Avesta and Indian Vedas, and suggests that a
common Indo-European base lay behind all three, and that the hexameter
is “a hybrid primary combination that resulted from the fusion of dimeter
and trimeter verse forms” (p. 47); he finds parallels to the caesurae of the
hexameter in the meters of the other languages. Gentili and Giannini 1977
and Gentili 1981 associate the origin of the hexameter with that of dactyloepitrite. Miller (1982:48-56) gives an outline, based on West and Nagy “as
far as they are compatible” (p. 49) and disagreeing with Peabody.
The most accessible brief statement of current opinions on the articulation
of the Homeric hexameter is Kirk (1985:18-24); he lays much stress on
the 3-part verse or “threefolder” (described below), gives a number of
examples, and emphasizes the effects of the lengths of the verse-cola. The
older, pre-Fränkel view can be found in Bowra 1962. The fundamental work
is Fränkel 1926/1968. In its original form this article appeared in 1926; at
the beginning of the later, heavily-revised version, Fränkel remarks that a
reviewer of the first article proclaimed that it marked the beginning of a
new era in the study of the rhythm of Greek verse, and adds wryly that in
fact its influence has remained comparatively slight. This is no longer true,
at least in the study of Homeric formulae. Fränkel’s great contribution was
to shift the focus away from the metrical feet, six dactyls (- u u: a heavy
syllable followed by two light ones) or spondees (- -: two heavy syllables)
of which the Homeric hexameter is formed, to the “cola,” the words or
word-groups which form the compositional units of the verse. These cola
are separated by “sense-breaks,” which may be strong, as at the beginning
and end of a sentence or clause (marked in modern texts by punctuation) or
weak, i.e., simply a word-boundary; or somewhere between these extremes.
Fränkel insists that in every Homeric verse there are four cola divided by
three strong or weak sense-breaks or “caesurae.” For Fränkel, the first of
these caesurae (A) has four possible positions, the others (B and C) two
each, occurring as follows:
A line like alla soi, ô meg’ anaides, ham’ hespometh’, ophra su chairêis
(Iliad 1.158) shows the three caesurae in their commonest positions and
marked by punctuation. The four cola in the verse quoted are of different
metrical shapes: - u u -; u u - u; u - u u; - u u - -; and this, as well as the
various alternative positions of the caesurae, gives flexibility and variety to
the verse. The meter of Longfellow’s Hiawatha may be compared: if two of
these verses are treated as one (“Should you ask me, / whence these stories?
/ Whence these legends / and traditions?”), the result is a line with about the
same number of syllables as the Homeric hexameter but with four identical
cola, three rigidly-fixed caesurae, and virtually no variety or flexibility.
Fränkel also states that any of the caesurae may be postponed if preceded
by a “heavy word” or word-group of not less than six morae in length (a
mora is equivalent to one short syllable). This postponement may go so far
as to place an A caesura in the B1 position, or a B caesura in the C1 position,
the normal alternative positions being bridged-over. This principle allows
Fränkel to account for the significant number of verses which fall into three
cola instead of four (see below). Fränkel is sensitive to the importance of his
new approach for appreciation of the sense and rhythm of Homeric verse; he
suggests, for instance, that sometimes the first colon may be characterized as
lively and vigorous, the second as quiet and relaxed, the third as emotional
or emphatic, the fourth as heavily-loaded. Even more important, he observes
(1968:115) that Homeric formulae fit the length of the common cola, and
thus serve as building-blocks of Homeric verse.
Significant work on the position and importance of sense-breaks in
the Homeric verse, and the kinds of phrases which fit between them, had
previously been done, especially by Bassett (1905, 1917, 1926) and Witte
(1972), to some extent preparing the way for Fränkel. He may perhaps be
criticized for overstressing the necessity for identifying four cola and three
caesurae; he himself admitted that it was occasionally difficult to choose
between alternative A caesurae, and in such cases it is probably useless to
attempt to do so; and his doctrine of the “heavy word” is perhaps hardly
necessary, since long words are sometimes unavoidable and because of their
length must displace a caesura and be followed by one. But his identification
of the fundamental importance of sense-breaks of various types, and his
ability to see that not only words and word-groups but also formulae fall
between these sense-breaks and hence form the units of which the verse is
composed, instead of the metrical units of dactyls and spondees, meant that
no one aware of his work can read a hexameter in the same way afterwards.
(See further the summary of his ideas in Fränkel 1962:29-34 and 1968:619).
Porter 1951 attempted to revise Fränkel’s work by placing the alternative
C caesura a syllable after the commoner C1, i.e., after position 9, instead of
after the long syllable of the fourth foot (after position 7) as Fränkel had; he
also accepted only two positions for the A caesura (after positions 2 and 3)
instead of the four admitted by Fränkel. He can thus reduce the possibilities
of variation of caesurae in a verse to eight. He is almost certainly wrong about
the C caesura, for the figures he prints (23) for the positions of punctuation
show that Fränkel’s position for the alternative C (after position 7) is a
much more important sense-break than Porter’s, and the fact that so many
noun-epithet formulae begin there (podas ôkus Achilleus, etc.) clinches the
argument. On the A caesura, his arguments may again not be convincing,
but he has the virtue of demonstrating that it is often a mistake to attempt
to pinpoint this caesura. Besides reprinting figures on punctuation-points
in Homer and Hesiod, Porter (using a different system of notation from
Fränkel’s) gives tables listing the occurrences of cola (according to his
system), the lengths of each colon, the patterns of bridging-over of cola, and
the metrical shape of words which end at each position of the verse (based
on thousand-line samples of the Iliad and Odyssey, the Hesiodic poems, the
long Hymns, and Callimachus). There is much more of value in Porter’s
article, though its main conclusions have not been accepted.
Rossi 1965 took issue with Fränkel’s theories of displacement and
bridging of caesurae, and (using another new terminology) gives percentages
for the position of caesurae in Iliad 1. He agrees with Porter that a colon is
not a unit of meaning, though phrase divisions, when they occur, are often at
caesural points, and criticizes Fränkel for calling caesurae “sense-breaks.”
Rossi sees many verses “che ricavano la loro virtù espressiva proprio da
un sottile conflitto fra colizzazione ‘regolare’ e flusso sintattico obliterato
dal ritmo” (246). For him, syntactic considerations can be decisive only in
cases where the meter is indifferent and there is a possibility of rhythmical
choice. He shows that Fränkel’s “heavy word” is often not important to the
sense, rejects Fränkel’s
insistence that the A caesura can be postponed to positions 3 1/2 or 4 only if
preceded by a heavy word, and allows the A caesura at those positions even
if it is preceded not by a heavy word but by earlier word-ends. In reply to
Porter’s view that a colon of only two syllables, or even one, is meaningless,
Rossi holds that a short word often gains emphasis by filling a colon itself
(250-51). It was pointed out long ago that some important monosyllables
(verb-forms such as bê, stê, tlê, etc.) are used mainly at the beginning of a
verse or phrase, to give them weight; Fränkel refined this by pointing out
that they occur at the start of a colon; Rossi goes further, claiming that such
monosyllables are themselves a colon, either alone or with a weak particle
which adds a short syllable. He gives a long list of examples, and lists the
minimum and maximum lengths for each colon, with examples of their
various combinations. This view seems to me acceptable. In an Appendix,
Rossi discusses further the nature of other very short cola. (His views are
summarized in Rossi 1978:102-7.)
Kirk 1966, like Porter, was concerned about the very short cola possible
under Fränkel’s system, and carefully examines the theories of both scholars.
He refuses to accept Fränkel’s A1 and A2 caesura positions because of the
shortness of the first colon in these cases, and sees the weakness of Porter’s
alternative C caesura. Kirk raises the question of what a colon really is: is
it a unit of meaning, as Fränkel said? But many verses do not have four
sense-units. A rhythmical unit, as Porter thought? Kirk is more inclined to
accept this latter proposition. Do the cola in fact correspond to the sensedivisions? Kirk marks the rhythmical cola on a 24-line passage (on Porter’s
system, but without his alternative C caesura after position 9) and compares
them with the sense-cola, admitting that there is room for much difference
of opinion here. He finds that only 12 of the 24 verses fall into four cola, and
in only two do these correspond exactly to the sense-cola. Kirk therefore
looks for factors other than sense-breaks or the four-colon theory to explain
prevalence of word-end in certain positions and inhibitions on it in others,
and after detailed arguments summarizes his views thus: “The B caesura
is a structural division of the verse primarily designed to integrate it and
prevent it from falling into two equal parts; the C caesura tends to introduce
a distinct verse-end sequence; the tendency to caesura around the middle of
the first “half” of the verse is due primarily to the average lengths of Greek
words available in the
poetical vocabulary, with the preference for caesura at 3 due largely to the
preference for internal caesura except before the verse-end sequence; the
inhibitions on word-end at 3 1/2 and 7 1/2 are caused by the desire to avoid
any strong possibility of three successive trochaic cuts, that on 4 being due
to the desire to avoid a monosyllabic ending, especially after a heavy word,
to a major part of the verse” (103). Euphony is thus a sufficient reason for
the position of the word-boundaries, rather than a fixed colometric structure.
The hexameter often falls into four parts, but sometimes the sense-division
is not into 4 parts but into 3 or 2; the first and third cola often disappear or
are unrealistically short. Kirk’s views are very reasonable, and his theories
are often confirmed by Devine and Stephens 1984.
Ingalls 1970 questions Kirk’s views that some of Fränkel’s cola are too
short to be acceptable (he does not mention Rossi’s support for Fränkel),
and gives an alternative colon-analysis (on Fränkel’s principles) of the
passage analyzed by Kirk, finding that “every verse is divisible into four
cola. Wherever the normal caesura is bridged, it is by means of either a
heavy word or Wortbild . . . . Futhermore, only two verses, 444 and 449,
do not fall into reasonable sense divisions” (11-12). Ingalls’ analysis differs
from Kirk’s in 15 of the 24 verses, and though sometimes his divisions
seem preferable to Kirk’s he accepts such odd cola as hoi d’ and apo. A
comparison of the analyses strengthens one’s feelings that it is unwise to be
too categorical about marking the precise position of a caesura if there is no
immediately obvious sense-break.
The metrical shape of words obviously affects their position within
the verse. Here the basic study is that of O’Neill 1942, who declared:
“What I have done is to classify statistically, according to metrical type
and position in the line, 48,431 words contained in 7152 hexameters from
seven different texts” (106). His sample consisted of 1,000 lines each of
the Iliad and the Odyssey, the Works and Days and part of the Shield of
Hesiod, Aratus’ Phaenomena, and 1,000 hexameters each of Callimachus,
Apollonius, and Theocritus. Words are categorized according to the metrical
place they fill, i.e., syllables lengthened “by position” are counted as long
and elided syllables are ignored. The final syllable of the verse is always
counted as long in the statistics for word-distribution, but a table enables
some adjustments to be made. Words are located according to the position
of their final
syllables. O’Neill’s results are set out in 38 tables of figures and percentages,
which show that in most cases words of a given metrical shape occur
predominantly in a very few of their possible positions, very often in only two
positions. O’Neill calls this “localization.” “The discovery that localization
is practically universal in the hexameter is one of the chief contributions
of the present paper to metrical knowledge” (114). The localization of
the various metrical shapes does not change from poet to poet or over the
centuries, though (as O’Neill shows in detail) its strictness varies slightly
(Hesiod being closer to the Iliad than the Odyssey is).
O’Neill prints a detailed exegesis of the results of his tables. Tables 1-28
list positions, numbers, and percentages for all metrical word-shapes in the
works studied. Table 29 gives statistics on long and short final syllables of the
verse. Among the other tables, of special interest are Table 31, which shows
at a glance in which positions in the verse each word-shape occurs, and
Table 35, which gives relative frequencies of each word-type. A supplement
usefully summarizes the history of metrical understanding of the hexameter
from ancient times.
O’Neill’s work remains valuable, though doubtless it will one day be
replaced by computerized figures. So far the only similar published work
known to me is Dyer 1967. Dyer was one of the pioneers of computerized
work on Homer, and his long article deals with computerized grammatical
analysis, scansion by computer program, and the hexameter meter. Starting
from the work of O’Neill and McDonough, he outlines procedures for
computerized identification and tabulation of the various metrical wordtypes, word-groups, or readily recognizable forms such as middle participles.
He gives complete figures (for the Iliad) for the positions in which twenty
word-types occur, and shows how each of these word-types has an established
relationship with one or more of the cola of the hexameter. Of course the
techniques of using computers have changed greatly since Dyer wrote, but
his work is fundamental to investigation of the hexameter and so far as I
know has not yet been followed up.
To return to the subject of cola, Beck 1972a (said to be a refinement
of Beck 1972b, which I have not seen) takes up the problems of locating
the A caesura, which in Fränkel’s theory can fall anywhere between the
beginning of the verse and the B caesura or be bridged entirely, pointing out
the weaknesses in the
theories of both Fränkel and Porter. The inhibition on word-end after the
second trochee or the second metron (after positions 3 1/2 and 4) vanishes
if there is word-end at 2 or 3 (Meyer’s Law). Beck argues against Kirk’s
explanations for the inhibition of word-end at these points, and suggests that
a simple reason explains inhibition after both 3 1/2 and 4, i.e., “a previously
undetected principle of composition which limits, directly and drastically,
the words which may normally start at 3 1/2 and 4” (221). This principle
“limits words starting at 3 1/2 or 4 to those which continue units which
themselves started no earlier than the beginning of the line or which, if they
did start earlier than the beginning of the line, will subsequently be complete
at the [B] caesura” (222). This means that in almost all cases, even if a new
word begins at 3 1/2 or 4, it is the continuation of a syntactic unit which
either began just beforehand or will be completed immediately afterwards
at the caesura, so that positions 3 1/2 and 4, though not bridged by a word,
are bridged by a syntactic unit of two or more words (223).
Beck examines 297 verses of the Iliad and 312 of the Odyssey,
finding only two exceptions to his principle. The principle has the natural
side-effect of bringing about word-end at position 2 or 3 if there is word-end
at 3 1/2 or 4, since this usually means that the syntactic unit began earlier in
the verse, of course with a word-boundary; Meyer’s Law is thus explained.
The theory is interesting, but should now probably give place to the more
comprehensive work of Devine and Stephens (see below).
Beekes 1972 sets out to show that O’Neill’s localization results
derive from a very few rules, which in turn determine the structure of the
hexameter. He summarizes these as: “The Greek hexameter has a caesura,
realized by a syntactical boundary, at [position] 5 or 5 1/2. Often the final
cadence is marked off by a syntactical boundary at 8; as word end at 7 1/2
would give a ‘false start’ to such a final cadence, it is forbidden. To avoid
verse end effect at the beginning, word end at 3 1/2 and long final syllable
at 4 are avoided. Perhaps to avoid the suggestion of verse end long final
syllable is avoided at 8 and 10. A monosyllable at the end of the verse is also
avoided” (9). These rules are well known; Beekes gives no explanation for
their origin, which can now be sought in Devine and Stephens 1984.
Peabody 1975, after discussing the relationship of the Greek
hexameter to the meters of other Indo-European languages and the
nature of syllable length, devotes a chapter (pp. 66-117) to the system
of cola and its interaction with formulae. He follows Porter in allowing
only two positions for the A caesura (after positions 2 or 3) and Fränkel in
placing the alternative C caesura after position 7. Peabody does not consider
that a caesura should be considered a pause in sense, but “useful only for
analytic purposes” (p. 67). He also thinks that the long fourth colon should
often be divided into two parts. (The “law of increasing members,” which
states that the final colon of a sentence should be longer than the others [see
Allen 1973:119], makes this unlikely). Peabody also discusses the ways
in which words are adjusted to fit the cola, and the cola to each other, and
identifies verses with three cola (pp. 88-91) and with five (the colon after the
C caesura being divided into two: pp. 92-94). Further sections discuss the
transfer of cola from one place in the verse to another, and the way formulae
fit within the cola (see section 3). Minton 1975, a study of verse-structure
and formulae, uses Hesiod’s Theogony as illustration (see section 4), but
should be mentioned here for its acute observations on three-part verses
(33f.), which he says are more than twice as common in the Theogony as in
Homer (34).
The proportion of dactyls and spondees in Homeric verse has
continued to receive attention. Jones and Gray 1972 seem to have been
the first to apply modern statistical discipline to the existing metrical data
on the numbers and positions of dactyls and spondees in hexameter verse.
Using the data published by J. La Roche (in Wiener Studien 20-22 [18981900]), the 32 possible patterns of dactyls and spondees (counting the last
foot as a spondee) are tabulated for each book of the Iliad and Odyssey
and for the poems as wholes (the latter results are printed), as well as for
Hesiod, the Hymns, Aratus, Apollonius, Callimachus, and Nonnus. Tables
are printed giving the order of frequency of the pattern in each work, the
differences between the books of the Iliad and Odyssey and the works as
wholes (only the Catalogue of Ships in the Iliad and Book 11 of the Odyssey
show statistically significant differences). In frequency of patterns there
is little difference between the Homeric poems, Hesiod, and the Hymns,
but a good deal of difference between this group and the later authors. In
the same year Rudberg 1972 announced that he had rechecked La Roche’s
figures (using Allen’s Oxford Classical Text) and found a number of errors.
Rudberg points out that contrary to the statement of La Roche, sequences of
metrically identical verses are
not rare. Of verses with five dactyls, 35.8% in the Iliad and 36.2% in the
Odyssey are preceded or followed by another of the same type; two other
metrical types also occur in pairs more than 25% of the time. “Un vers
homérique sur cinq est précédé ou suivi par un vers du même type métrique”
(p. 12; I take this to mean that on average there are 2 successive identical
verses in every 10). Runs of seven and six metrically identical verses occur
once each, runs of five are found 11 times, runs of four 39 times, runs of
three 297 times. Not surprisingly, in the Catalogue of Ships there are more
spondees than usual. Rudberg also gives the percentage of verses with
spondees in each of the metrical feet. Martínez Conesa 1971 offers statistics
for the proportion of dactyls and spondees in Iliad 1 and discusses the length
and number of words in the metrical cola, over-lengthening, the positioning
of 5-syllable words, and verses with a spondee in the fifth foot.
Michaelson, Morton, and Wake 1978 examine sentence-length
in the Iliad, Odyssey, Hesiod’s Works and Days, Theogony, and Shield,
Aratus, and Apollonius, finding that sentences coterminous with the verse
predominate in Homer and equal numbers of sentences occupy one and two
lines (but Odyssey 19 has twice as many one-verse lines). In Apollonius
and Aratus more sentences end (and of course begin) within the verse (55%
compared with less than 40% for Homer). Hesiod lies midway between
Homer and Apollonius in complexity of structure. The authors suggest that
the preponderance of one- and two-line sentences, a tendency for multi-line
sentences to end with the end of the line, and the use of short part-lines to
complete broken lines are characteristic of oral composition.
Devine and Stephens 1976 use data on the combinations of phonemes
used to implement long and short syllables in the first four feet of the
hexameter (of various periods) to refute the theory that “there is a multiplicity
of metrical elements in Greek corresponding to postulated differences in
the phonetic duration of phonemes and syllables” (141); they support the
correctness of the ancient view that “there are only two metrically relevant
distinctive elements, longum and breve, which stand respectively in a oneto-one correspondence to linguistically heavy and light syllables” (141). In
a highly technical monograph of far-ranging importance (1984) the authors
study the whole question of constraints on word boundaries (“bridges”) in
Greek meter. They list the constraints on word-end in the hexameter, test
explanations of earlier scholars, and examine in detail the circumstances of
the resolution of a heavy syllable into two light ones and the relationship
of this to word-boundaries. Both bridges and resolution, in the hexameter
and in other meters, are accounted for by means of a phonological theory of
matrices which explains both the synchronic phenomena and the diachronic
changes in strictness of observance of the constraints. They reaffirm that
word-boundaries must not falsely signal metrical boundaries (p. 130); that
“many rhythmic bridges are evidently constraints against false line end or
false caesura/diaeresis” (p. 130); that “iteration of word boundary coinciding
with foot boundary in opposition to the basic podic structure is even more
strongly avoided” (i.e., there is a constraint against repeated trochaic cuts:
p. 131). This work, complex and expressed with great concision, is based
upon rigorous argument and an immensely detailed knowledge both of
Greek verse and of metrical usages in other languages; it supersedes most
previous work on word-position in meter and must henceforth be taken into
consideration in any study of the hexameter.
Allen 1973
W. S. Allen. Accent and Rhythm. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bassett 1905
S. E. Bassett. “Notes on the Bucolic Diaeresis.” Transactions of the American Philological
Association, 36:111-24.
Bassett 1917
__________. “The Hephthemimeral Caesura in Greek Hexameter Poetry.” Transactions of
the American Philological Association, 48:85-110.
Bassett 1919
__________, “Versus tetracolos.” Classical Philology, 14:216-33.
Bassett 1926
__________. “The So-called Emphatic Position of the Runover Word in the Homeric
Hexameter.” Transactions of the American Philological Association, 57:116-48.
Beck 1972a
R. Beck. “A Principle of Composition in Homeric Verse.” Phoenix, 26:213-31.
Beck 1972b
__________. “Meter and Sense in Homeric Verse.” Dissertation Abstracts, 32 (5):5757A.
Beekes 1972
R. S. P. Beekes. “On the Structure of the Greek Hexameter: ‘O’Neill’ Interpreted.” Glotta,
Bowra 1962
M. Bowra. “Metre.” In A Companion to Homer. Ed. A. J. B. Wace and F. H. Stubbings.
London: Macmillan. pp. 19-25.
Devine and Stephens 1976
M. Devine and L. Stephens. “The Homeric Hexameter and a Basic Principle of Metrical
Theory.” Classical Philology, 71:141-63.
Devine and Stephens 1984
__________. Language and Meter: Resolution, Porson’s Bridge, and their Prosodic Basis.
Chico, CA: Scholars Press.
Durante 1971
M. Durante. Sulla preistoria della tradizione poetica greca I. Continuità della tradizione
poetica dell’età micenea ai primi documenti. Incunabula Graeca, 50. Rome: Edizioni
Durante 1976
__________. Sulla preistoria delta tradizione poetica greca II. Risultanze della
comparazione indoeuropea. Incunabula Graeca, 64. Rome: Edizioni dell’Ateneo.
Dyer 1966
R. Dyer. “The Prospects of Computerized Research on Homer.” Revue: Organisation
internationale pour l’étude des langues anciennes par ordinateur, 4:25-30.
Dyer 1967
__________. “Towards Computational Procedures in Homeric Scholarship.” Revue:
Organisation internationale pour l’étude des langues anciennes par ordinateur, 5:1-54.
Fränkel 1926/1968
H. Fränkel. “Der homerische und der kallimachische Hexameter.” Originally published in
Göttinger Nachrichten 1926, rev. version in Wege und Formen frühgriechischen Denkens.
Munich: Beck. pp. 100-56.
Fränkel 1962
__________. Early Greek Poetry and Philosophy. Translation of Dichtung und Philosophie
des frühen Griechentums (rev. ed., Munich 1962) by M. Hadas and J. Willis. New York
and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Fränkel 1968
__________. Noten zu den Argonautika des Apollonios. Munich: Beck.
Gentili 1981
B. Gentili. “Preistoria e formazione dell’esametro.” In I poemi epici rapsodici non omerici
e la tradizione orale: Atti del convegno di Venezia 28-30 settembre 1977. Ed. C. Brillante,
M. Cantilena, C. O. Pavese. Padova: Editrice Antenore. pp. 75-106.
Gentili and Giannini 1977
__________ and P. Giannini. “Preistoria e formazione dell’esametro.” Quaderni Urbinati
di cultura classica, 26:7-51.
Hoekstra 1981
A. Hoekstra. Epic Verse before Homer. Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Company.
Horrocks 1980
G. C. Horrocks. The Antiquity of the Greek Epic Tradition: Some New Evidence.”
Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society, 26:1-11.
Ingalls 1970
W. B. Ingalls. “The Structure of the Homeric Hexameter: A Review.” Phoenix, 24:1-12.
Jones and Gray 1972
F. P. Jones and F. E. Gray. “Hexameter Patterns, Statistical Inference, and the Homeric
Question. An Analysis of the La Roche Data.” Transactions of the American Philological
Association, 10:187-209.
Kirk 1961
G. S. Kirk. “Dark Age and Oral Poet.” Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Soeiety,
7:34-48. Rpt. in Homer and the Oral Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
pp. 19-39.
Kirk 1966
__________. “The Structure of the Homeric Hexameter.” Yale Classical Studies, 20:76104.
Kirk 1985
__________. The Iliad: A Commentary. Vol 1: Books 1-4. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press. pp. 17-37.
Martínez Conesa 1971
J. A. Martínez Conesa. “Glosas al hexámetro homérico.” Estudios clásicos, 15:377-89.
Michaelson, Morton and Wake 1978
S. Michaelson, A. Q. Morton, and W. C. Wake. “Sentence Length Distributions in Greek
Hexameters and Homer.” Association for Literary and Linguistic Computing Bulletin,
Miller 1982
G. Miller. Homer and the Ionian Epic Tradition: Some Phonic and Phonological Evidence
against an Aeolic ‘Phase.’ Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft, 38. Innsbruck:
Rauchdruck Ges.
Minton 1975
W. W. Minton. “The Frequency and Structuring of Traditional Formulas in Hesiod’s
Theogony.” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, 79:26-54.
Nagy 1974
G. Nagy. Comparative Studies in Greek and Indic Meter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.
O’Neill 1942
G. O’Neill, Jr. “Localization of Metrical Word-types in the Greek Hexameter.” Yale
Classical Studies, 8:105-78.
Peabody 1975
B. Peabody. The Winged Word: A Study in the Technique of Ancient Greek Oral Composition
as Seen Principally through Hesiod’s Works and Days. Albany: State University of New
York Press.
Porter 1951
H. M. Porter. “The Early Greek Hexameter.” Yale Classical Studies, 12:3-63.
Rossi 1965
L. E. Rossi. “Estensione e valore del ‘colon’ nell’esametro omerico.” Studi Urbinati,
Rossi 1978
__________. “I Poemi omerici come testimonianza di poesia orale.” In Storia e civiltà dei
Greci. Milan: Bompiani. I.1. pp. 73-147.
Rudberg 1972
S. Y. Rudberg. “Etudes sur l’hexamètre homérique.” In Studi classici in onore di Quintino
Cataudella, vol. I. Catania: Università di Catania. pp. 9-23.
Schmitt 1967
R. Schmitt. Dichtung und Dichtersprache in indogermanischer Zeit. Wiesbaden:
Schmitt 1968
__________. Indogermanische Dichtersprache. Wege der Forschung, 165. Darmstadt:
Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.
West 1973
M. L. West. “Greek Poetry 2000-700 B.C.” Classical Quarterly, 23:179-92.
Witte 1972
K. Witte. Zur homerischen Sprache (reprint of articles previously published in Glotta
1909-1914). Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.
§ 3: The Formula and the Hexameter
This section is particularly concerned with different aspects
of the work of Milman Parry, and will deal with definitions of formula;
“ornamental” and “particularized” epithets; overlapping or “equivalent”
formulae and the law of economy; the adaptations and adjustments which
formulaic expressions undergo when they are juxtaposed or must be
modified in order to fit into a particular position in the verse; and the force
of analogy in the formation of formulae, including “schematizations” or
“structural formulae.”
The history of the understanding of Homeric oral techniques can be
read in Latacz (1979:25-44). He tells a depressing story of how in the years
following Wolf’s assertion on external evidence that Homer was illiterate
(in his famous Prolegomena of 1795), the first steps were taken towards
Milman Parry’s analysis of oral techniques. In 1840 Gepper pointed out
that epithets in Homer were so closely linked with their nouns that the poet
had little freedom of choice, and in the same year Gottfried Hermann (in an
article reprinted in Latacz 1979:47-59) showed by a number of arguments
from internal evidence that the poems were intended to be heard, not read,
that the sense is complete within a verse or part of a verse, that the epithets are
useful for filling spaces in the verse-structure as well as for ornamentation,
and that these characteristics made for easy extemporaneous composition.
Other scholars were already working on the collections of folk-epic which
had appeared, and connections between these and Homer were already
being made. The way was clear for further studies of oral technique, but the
focus of attention turned instead to Lachmann’s theories of the aggregation
of epics from shorter songs, and the
long duels between Analysts and Unitarians began. Work on the metrical
shapes of words and phrases and their positioning in the hexameter verse
was continued, especially by Ellendt, Mintzer, Seymour, Witte, Bassett, and
Meillet, but the synthesis between this and the characteristics of oral poetry
had to wait for Milman Parry. However, in 1875 appeared Prendergast’s
Complete Concordance to the Iliad of Homer, sixteen years in the making
and intended to facilitate the composition of Homeric verse in English
public schools. Five years later came Dunbar’s Complete Concordance to
the Odyssey of Homer, compiled “during hours snatched from the duties of
an arduous profession” (that of a country doctor in Scotland), including an
apology for errors due to the writing of 62,400 lines of Greek which had
“somewhat weakened and impaired his eyesight.” In 1885 followed Schmidt’s
Parallel-Homer: oder Index aller homerischen Iterati in lexikalischer
Anordnung. These works (all recently reprinted) are of immense use in the
study of formulae, a use of which their toiling authors never dreamed.
An excellent account of Milman Parry’s work on Homer and of his
collecting of oral songs in Yugoslavia is given in Adam Parry’s introduction
to his edition and translation of his father’s collected works (Parry 1971).
Milman Parry’s work is remarkable not only for the range of his insights
but for his thoroughness and his rigorous insistence on proof. It had already
been accepted that Homeric diction was created by the verse, and that
obsolete and dialectical forms were retained when they provided useful
metrical alternatives. But even in his Master’s thesis of 1923 Parry’s new
understanding of the whole system of formulae and the use of epithets can
already be detected.
Definitions of the formula
A formula is, in Parry’s famous definition, “an expression regularly
used, under the same metrical conditions, to express an essential idea” (Parry
1971:13; repeated with insignificant changes at 1971:272). The existence of
formulae in Homer was recognized in antiquity and is beyond any doubt; but
are they traditional or the creation of one poetic genius? Parry held that they
are proved to be traditional because “they constitute a system distinguished
at once by great extension and great simplicity” (p. 16). “Extension”
he demonstrated by tabulating the number of personal name-epithet
formulae for major characters fitting after the B2 and Cl caesurae (see
section 2; Parry’s charts are on pp. 10-16, 39). By “simplicity” he meant
what is also called economy, the use of only one expression for one person
in one metrical shape and position; he showed that of 40 different nameepithet formulae of one metrical shape in one grammatical case, only six
were not used for one character alone, i.e., 34 were reserved each for one of
34 persons. Parry thought that no one poet would create such a specialized
system and it must therefore be traditional (p. 37f.).
Hoekstra (1965:8-14) gives a detailed assessment and appreciation
of Parry’s work, and points out that not until his long article in 1930 does
Parry say that Homeric poetry is wholly formulaic and orally composed.
To do this Parry had both to extend his definition and to drop his criteria
of “extension and simplicity” (p. 11). This is obvious in Parry’s formulaic
analysis of Iliad 1.1-25 and Odyssey 1.1-25 (1971:301-4), for many of
the expressions here called formulae are not used regularly, and are not
part of a system. So new criteria are needed for identifying a formula
and the traditional character of a formula. Parry’s “essential idea” is also
vague semasiologically, and “regularly employed” does not apply to a few
obviously very ancient expressions which happen to occur only once in
extant epic. Hoekstra also holds that “formulaic” should not be applied to
single words, nor to combinations of particles (as some scholars have done).
Homeric poetry is thus not entirely formulaic.
Hainsworth 1968 also begins with a summary of Parry’s results, with
comments and elaborations. He points out that name-epithet formulae in the
nominative case are convenient and doubtless traditional, but that there are
many gaps in the system in the oblique cases. Name-epithet formulae in the
nominative are fixed in position, located both by metrical convenience and
by sentence-patterns at the verse-end, but with formulae in other grammatical
cases mobility of position increases sharply. So Hainsworth makes out
“a prima facie case for impeaching the uncritical analogical extension of
the technique of use of nominative personal names to the whole diction
of the epics” (p. 31). He also observes that name-epithet formulae in the
nominative are often altered in shape, and gives a useful list of examples
(p. 30, note 3); this vitiates Parry’s “under the same metrical conditions.”
Parry’s definition applies to the traditional ornamental epithets of
name-epithet formulae, but has been extended to cover expressions in which
all words are functional (pp. 33-35); and fixity of position must not be part
of the definition. Hainsworth then presents a revised definition of a formula
(pp. 35-36). The essence of a formula is repetition, so it must be a “repeated
word-group,” and “the use of one word created a strong presumption that
the other would follow. This degree of mutual expectancy I choose as the
best differentia of the formulaic word-group.” The word-group remains the
same formula despite changes in metrical shape of its component words
caused by elision or correption, inflection, shifts in meaning, changes in
prefixes of suffixes, or use of alternative forms of word-stem. The formula
also remains the same despite changes in the word-group arising from
rearrangement of the word-order, the separation of constituent words, and
the insertion, omission, or change of particles or prepositions. A formula is
also capable of extension by the addition of further terms. The remainder
of Hainsworth’s book examines in detail certain common-noun-epithet
formulae (see below), and establishes the validity of his approach beyond
A fundamental, and very lucid, approach to the nature of a formula
can be found in Kiparsky 1976. Kiparsky compares formulae with the
“bound expresssions” of ordinary language (e.g., “livelong day,” “foregone
conclusion”). Are formulae in oral literature special cases of such bound
expressions? Hainsworth distinguished unchanging formulae and those
which can be modified in various ways. The former can be treated as “readymade surface structures” (Kiparsky 1976: p. 83), which do not however
have an absolutely fixed metrical form as they may be altered by (for
example) elision. Flexible formulae must be composed of grammaticallyrelated constituents, and many grammatical relationships can be shown by a
deep-structure analysis to be impossible in formulae (for example, adjective
+ verb, adverb + noun). Kiparsky makes the most important point that his
analysis “allows for the inflection, separation, and modification of formulae
without singling out one form as the prototype and postulating analogical
processes to generate the others” (a point also made by Nagler, see below).
He goes on to show how expansion of formulae fits within this analysis.
Hainsworth’s abandonment of the metrical criterion as part of the definition
is important, because it enables the definition to be used also for formulae in
relatively free meters and in oral prose. “(T)he formula makes possible the
improvisation of metrical verse. This is, however, a specialized utilization
of formulaic language, not its cause” (p. 88). Kiparsky also discusses
phonological repetition (Parry’s “puns”), and compares the characteristics
of some other oral literatures. His article is an excellent preparation for the
sometimes more difficult exposition of Nagler.
Nagler 1974 (which includes a revised and expanded form of Nagler
1967) is a most important contribution to the theory of oral composition,
or more precisely, of composition using traditional techniques. Nagler’s
first chapter discusses the “puns” or phonological repetitions Parry noted in
Homer (Parry 1971:72), adding several other examples, and suggests that
“these corresponsions should suggest the operation of psychological cola or
rhythmical groups of some sort bearing a hitherto undetermined relation to
formulas” (p. 8). Later he drops the word “formula” in favor of “allomorph,”
which is “a derivative not of any other phrase but of some preverbal, mental,
but quite real entity underlying all such phrases at a more abstract level” (p.
12). The “entity” Nagler refers to as a “Gestalt,” the preverbal template
which is realized in the appropriate spoken form at the moment of utterance.
The second chapter discusses the poetic significance of certain formulae and
the symbolism which can be seen in them, using as example the particularly
rich associations of krêdemnon (“head-binder,” “veil,” “battlement,”
“seal”) with violation of chastity. Nagler’s use of generative grammar and
his perceptive and sympathetic insights make his work valuable in a unique
way, and it has not yet been carried further and perhaps not yet properly
appreciated and assimilated. Nagy 1976 also considers the problems arising
from Parry’s definition of the formula, and offers “a working definition of
the formula that leaves out the factor of meter as the prime conditioning
force: the formula is a fixed phrase conditioned by the traditional themes of
oral poetry. Furthermore, I am ready to propose that meter is diachronically
generated by formula rather than vice versa.” Miller (1982:35-48) criticizes
Kiparsky’s views and finds that “all structuralist and truly generative
accounts of the formula have been inadequate because of their grounding in
erroneous assumptions, reliance on sentence-based models of grammar, and
the mechanical mindlessness attributed to the poet”; he prefers a theory put
forward in Miller and Windelberg 1981, which (so far as I know) has not yet
“Distinctive,” “generic,” and “equivalent” epithets; “economy”
Parry divided Homeric epithets into two types: “ornamental” or
“fixed” epithets, which have no relationship to the context and are only
a convenience for versification; and “particularized” epithets, which
concern the immediate action. The latter may be dealt with briefly. Parry
gave them his usual thorough examination (1971:153-65), pointing out that
polumêtis is an ornamental epithet for Odysseus, whereas polutropos is not;
the difference is determined by the context. At Odyssey 10.330 polutropos
replaces the generic diiphilos, normal in that position; pelôrios is similarly
used 10 times in place of diiphilos.
Ornamental epithets are subdivided into “distinctive” and “generic.”
The important question with these epithets is, can they have any actual
meaning in an individual instance? Parry insisted strongly that they could
not; it was the point which his scholarly peers found hardest to accept.
(The topic will be dealt with in section 7.) In a later article (1971:240-50)
Parry examined ornamental “glosses,” Homeric words whose meaning is
unknown or doubtful, showing that they survived even after their meaning
was forgotten because of their metrical convenience.
“Distinctive” epithets are those used for one person alone in one
metrical configuration. Parry showed that of 40 different name-epithet
formulae of one metrical shape in one grammatical case, only six were not
unique for one character alone; 34 were reserved each for one of 34 persons.
He asserted that no one poet would create such a specialized system, so that
it must be traditional (p. 37f.).
“Generic” epithets occupy a fixed position in the line (often separated
from the personal name), refer to general heroic characteristics, and can be
used for any god or hero (1971:64f., 83f.). Among the commonest examples
are douriklutos, diiphilos, megathumou, and for smaller metrical spaces dios
and amumôn. Did the poet have a choice among these for a particular hero?
Parry gives a list of 61 of these epithets and their use (pp. 89-91), showing
that of the 164 forms which occur, 91 are metrically unique while 73 could
be replaced by another generic epithet. There is no alternative for dios,
which qualifies 32 heroes, so the poet was satisfied without choice here;
the same is true of the other 90. The choice of epithet is thus decided not by
character but by the metrical shape of the name. The metrically identical
or “equivalent” generic epithets arise, Parry argued (p. 184f.), because they
have passed over to that category after once being “distinctive” (confined to
one hero); all generic epithets must have been “distinctive” at one time in
order to become ornamental. Then, when their significance had been lost,
they could be applied to another name by analogy. Thus androphonoio, used
three times for Ares, ten times for Hector, and once for Lycourgos, must at
one time have been applied either to Ares or to Hector, and then became a
distinctive epithet for Hector; but its single usage with another hero shows
that the link with Hector is breaking. In this way arose the overlapping
usage of the metrically identical androphonoio and hippodamoio, antitheos
and iphthimos (p. 186).
But what of “equivalent” formulae, those few cases where more than
one metrically identical formula is used for the same character? Since they
give no metrical advantage for composition, why do they exist? Do they
constitute a serious breach of the economy of the system? Parry showed that
many of them arise from analogy: “[The bard], by analogy, will draw from
two unique formulae one which will repeat the metre of an already existing
formula” (p. 176). Where analogy has not been at work, it must be that the
meter has not yet brought about economy, as with eriauchenes hippoi and
hupsêchees hippoi, if both formulae are in fact traditional (p. 180). Some
have been preserved because they are part of whole-verse formulae.
These equivalent formulae have been the subject of valuable work
since that of Parry. Pope 1963 points out that we know nothing of the
stock of formulae used by poets other than the composer of the Iliad and
Odyssey, that the gaps in even the fullest systems of name-epithet formulae
are large, and that of the 379 different noun-epithet combinations in the
similes only 53 (15%) occur in the rest of the Iliad and can be considered
traditional formulae (he restricts his definition of formula to expressions
repeated in identical metrical shape). Pope asks the provocative question:
“Is what makes an oral poet great that he knows more formulae or that he
uses fewer?” (p. 19). Hainsworth 1978 emphasizes a diachronic approach,
suggesting a process of sorting and selection of formulae and an influx of
commonplace epithets beside the old mysterious ones (see below, section 4).
Janko 1981 studies the pattern of occurrence of equivalent personal-nameepithet formulae. A list of the occurrences of the two equivalent formulae
for Hera shows that long sequences of the
same formula occur: the poet has a tendency to use the same formula
repeatedly, instead of seeking variation, as one would expect of a literate
author. The chance of the same formula occurring 5 times in a row, as
happens in Iliad 5, is only one in fifteen (254). There is a run of five cases
of androphonoio after Hectoros (instead of the equivalent hippodamoio),
a chance of only one in ten. The doublet formulae for Aphrodite occur
randomly in the Iliad, but there is noticeable run of one form in the Hymn
to Aphrodite—it looks as though the poet “temporarily forgot about the
existence of the doublet” (255). Two equivalent phrases exist for “he/she
answered him/her,” since one developed because of the usefulness of its
final movable n and then became common even without the n. A listing
shows that some formulae are strongly associated with one form or the other
(though the totals are often very small). In some stretches of the texts one
form is preferred; there is a run of 19 instances of one form in the Odyssey.
Janko concludes (a) that the memory of his previous usage played a part
in poet’s choice, and (b) the poet sometimes tended to forget one of the
alternative forms (258-59). The facts Janko provides are very interesting,
but one is sometimes worried by his assumption (a) that artistry is identical
with variation (“. . .the poet learns to eschew monotony more successfully
by alternation. . .[259]. . .Artistry is triumphantly reasserted in [Iliad 24],
where the poet alternates between the doublets”), and (b) that if a run of
one alternative recurs, the poet has recalled the preceding choice and not
changed it, whereas if the other alternative occurs, he has recalled the last
usage and changed it (260).
Schmiel 1984 addresses the same problem of choice between two
equivalent formulae. He lists five possible explanations of the choice: that
it arises from meaning and context; that one formula is associated with a
particular phrase in the rest of the sentence; that one alternative temporarily
slips from the poet’s memory; that one alternative phrase is associated
with a specific character; and that the poet alternates between formulae for
the sake of artistic variation. He then tests these possible explanations by
examining the occurrences of three sets of equivalent formulae. In the case
of chalkeon/meilinon enchos “bronze/ash spear” there are long runs of each
form, so there is no artistic variation; there is no association with a specific
character; the same verse occurs six times with “bronze,” so there may be a
whole-verse association. More interesting is the fact that context appears to
be significant;
Schmiel finds that in 15 cases either “bronze [spearhead]” or “ash [shaft]”
would be appropriate, but in another 13 cases the alternative more suitable for
the context is chosen. In only one case is the less suitable formula used, where
an “ash” spear is held fast in a shield, obviously by the bronze point (Iliad
20.272; unfortunately Schmiel does not mention that here a considerable
number of MSS have “bronze,” whereas in a few other instances I checked
there is little variation; in studies like this the critical apparatus must always
be consulted, though for Homer it is an imperfect instrument). Schmiel justly
thinks these results “both clear and significant” (p. 35). In a second case,
doru chalkeon/meilinon “bronze/ash weapon,” Schmiel finds an alternation
of forms, but spaced so far apart that it is unlikely to be intentional; 3 of
the 5 Iliad examples of meilinon are associated with Meriones, but the
significance of the association is doubtful; since 5 of the 10 Iliad examples
occur in Book 16, in the sequence abbab, memory may perhaps be a factor;
there is no valid whole-line association. So far as the context is concerned,
in 7 of the 12 occurrences either epithet is suitable; in the other 5, the form
more suitable to the context has been chosen (I notice that in one of them,
Iliad 16.346, one MS has the less apt form). For Schmiel’s third instance,
poluphloisboio thalassês and thalassêa euruporoio “noisy sea” and “sea
wide-to-cross,” all possibilities except context can be eliminated. From this
aspect, Schmiel finds that “noisy” is found in a context of noise, sea-shore,
and (often) emotional distress, whereas “wide-to-cross” in two of its three
occurrences is the highway home for the character involved, and in the other
is the open sea crashing over a ship, where either form would be acceptable.
So Schmiel concludes, reasonably, that “suitability to the context is the best
explanation for the choice of formula in the three sets of interchangeable
formulae which have been studied in this paper” (p. 37). (Janko has pointed
out to me in conversation that if Schmiel is right the formulae in question
are no longer, strictly speaking, “equivalent” in meaning.)
Paraskevaides 1984 provides a listing of synonymous nouns in
Homer, divided into two sets, one of synonymous nouns sharing the same
epithets and one of synonymous nouns used with different epithets. He gives
a detailed account of each noun (e.g., “sword”), showing which metrical
shapes are provided for by usages of the various Greek words and what
positions they occupy in the hexameter. There is no index of Greek words.
He states bluntly,
in the introduction to his second section (those with different epithets), that
“the use of different epithets cannot point to a particular description. . . .
The terms are used without distinction of meaning” (p. 83). He does not list
any of the three systems examined by Schmiel. The collection of material
is useful.
Also relevant to this topic is Hainsworth 1976, which deals with the
appearance of certain expressions in clusters. Hainsworth points out that
all eight instances of gerôn Priamos theoeidês, of the thirty-eight times he
is named in the Iliad, occur in Book 24. The Greek army is “broad” seven
times between Iliad 1.229 and 4.436, then only twice more in the whole
poem. Hainsworth lists other similar examples, and also clusters of repeated
whole-verses, and concludes that “an expression, once having come to the
surface of the mind and been used, tends to remain there for some time
and be used again before it sinks into oblivion”; “the stock [of formulae]
must be understood to include an uncertain, temporary, and everchanging
component” (p. 86). Abramowicz 1972 examines repetitions of a word or
root within a short space in Homer and in the Hymns to Delian Apollo and
Aphrodite, without reference to formulae.
Usage of formulae: juxtaposition, modification, and positioning
Though he seems not to have known of Hermann Fränkel’s work
on the structure of the hexameter, which first appeared in 1926 (see section
2), Parry’s study of formulae had naturally made him well aware that they
fit between the caesural pauses of the verse. In his thèse (1971:198f.) he
pointed to the fact that many metrical irregularities arise from modifications
of formulae, such as the use of nouns in a different case, or verbs in a different
person or tense, with consequent change of word-endings. He also discussed
(p. 202f.) metrical irregularities arising from juxtaposition of two formulae
when the ending of one is not in metrical accord with the beginning of the
other. Metrical flaws arising from neglect of initial or medial digamma were
examined both in Parry’s major monograph and in a later article (p. 222f.,
391f.). He concludes—as all would nowadays accept—that the text should
not be emended in an attempt to remove such metrical irregularities.
The first application of Milman Parry’s insights, and for a long time
the only one apart from Parry’s own later work, was
Chantraine 1932, an article on the “play of formulae” in Iliad 1. It remains
the only work of its kind, an excellent source for observing how formulae
are used. Chantraine deals with repeated verses, verses repeated with slight
modifications, the combining of formulae which fall between the various
caesurae, and modifications and changes of position of formulae. He makes
a special study of the voyage to Chryse, with its high level of repeated
phrases (here his views are somewhat flawed because type-scenes were not
fully understood). Calhoun 1933, though dealing mainly with repetitions
of whole verses, also has some perceptive remarks on the arrangement
of formulae in the verse. Bowra 1963 has some useful observations on
repetitions of formulae.
Hoekstra 1964 is a work of the greatest importance. After a review
of Parry’s work (see above), Hoekstra studies the effects on formulaic usage
of three linguistic changes in Greek: quantitative metathesis (the exchange
of quantity from êo to eô); the dropping of initial digamma (consonantal
u); and the optional addition of a final -n to certain verb and noun forms.
These linguistic changes added flexibility to pre-existing formulae by
allowing the extension or declension of nouns, the conjugation of verbs,
the replacement of archaic words or forms by more familiar substitutes, the
insertion of additional words (particles, conjunctions, etc.), and changes of
position. Hoekstra found that “the evidence for the existence of formulae
originally built upon quantitative metathesis is extremely slight” (p. 38).
It thus appears that this linguistic innovation virtually coincided with the
ending of the creation of new formulae, perhaps the end of oral composition.
A separate chapter deals with certain passages which show metrical and
stylistic peculiarities arising from declension, conjugation, replacement,
splitting, moving, and enjambement of formulae. A final chapter discusses
the creation of epic diction. Besides its many brilliant insights, Hoekstra’s
work is of fundamental importance because it demonstrates beyond doubt
that the presence in a verse or passage of later linguistic elements is no proof
of interpolation, but merely shows that the poet is making use of innovations
in his speech to increase the flexibility of his formulae and facilitate his
My own long article (Edwards 1966) studies the relationship of
formula and verse by examining sentence-construction and the sense-units
that occur in each of the sections into which a Homeric verse is divided by
its caesurae (see section 2). In the first half of
the verse, name-epithet formulae are not found, but the names or patronymics
of some heroes fit well before the A caesura (Atreïdês, Priamidês); the
various kinds of enjambement and runover words are also discussed (see
section 5). Between the A and B caesurae, ornamental adjectives in certain
sentence-patterns are examined, and some examples of the use of significant
adjectives are given here. After the B caesura, I study the phrases which
complete the sense before the end of the verse (or are complete clauses in
themselves), those which begin at B and enjamb into the next verse, and
adjectives falling between the B and C caesurae (ornamental and significant).
Between the C caesura and the verse-end several different types of phrase
occur, including essential parts of the sentence, ornamental adjectives, and
new sentences which may either be complete at the verse-end or enjamb.
Of particular interest are verses which are alike (or substantially so) until
the C caesura and then end differently, often by replacing an ornamental
epithet with the beginning of a new enjambing clause; this variety within
the constricted space of five syllables seems to indicate considerable
skill on the poet’s part. In the conclusion I stress the importance of the
caesurae as points of articulation for formulae and sense-units and the
occasional addition of emphasis by the positioning of words, and suggest
that a significant sense should sometimes be attributed to epithets which
are normally only ornamental. In later articles I examine the treatment of
formulae in Book 18 of the Iliad, certain alternative formulae used to convey
the meaning “he/she answered,” and the various formulae used to introduce
direct speech (Edwards 1968, 1969, 1970). In his important short study of
poetic techniques in Homer, Patzer collects the various formulae meaning
“[so] he spoke” and discusses their different emphasis and semantic content
In his important book (1968) Hainsworth, after discussing Milman
Parry’s work and giving a revised definition of a formula (see above),
proceeds with his study of formulae of two metrical shapes, - u u - u and u u
- u, showing how they are moved to different positions in the verse and how
their metrical usefulness is increased by changes in word-shape (elongation)
or word-order (inversion). Hainsworth’s concern is with the association
in the poet’s mind between (for instance) kartera desma “strong bonds,”
kraterôi eni desmôi, desmoio u - kraterou, and desmois u u - krateroisi. He
points out (pp. 72-73) that a system would have to be impracticably large to
provide a formula for every need that
might be anticipated, and so only the principal needs are accommodated;
others are covered by techniques of expansion, separation of the terms of the
formula (even over the verse-end), and adaptation to receive connectives and
prepositions, all of which Hainsworth illustrates in detail. In a final chapter
Hainsworth suggests that a narrow limitation of position of a formula is not
the starting-point of the technique but its conclusion: “Highly schematized
formula-types are then the consequence of ossification of more flexible
systems at points of frequent use” (p. 113).
This type of investigation has been continued by Woodlock 1981,
which gives the results of a similar kind of analysis to Hainsworth’s carried
out on noun-verb expressions in the Iliad. The data used are all such
phrases which occur between the Cl and C2 caesurae and the end of the
verse. Woodlock shows the favored positions for each expression and the
mechanisms for changing the metrical shape when required. The appendices
include a useful list of these noun-verb expressions in the Iliad in the various
forms in which they occur.
Two articles by Glavičić (1968 and 1969) study the third colon of the
Homeric verse. Often this space is filled by a verb, sometimes by two words
which are not a syntactic unity, and the level of association with the adjacent
cola varies. The author thinks that the wide variety of semantic content casts
doubt on the idea that every hexameter is composed of four cola. Glavičić
1971 deals with the interlacing of two binary syntagmes as abab. Various
causes bring about the alteration of the simple order: a complement; the
position of the verb; and the poet’s tendency to emphasize a part of the phrase.
Glavičić holds that these structures show the poet’s conscious aspiration to
create new formulae, more complicated but more poetic, as well as a more
artificial phrase structure, and thinks for the more complex examples the
poet must have used writing. He has many interesting examples. Muñoz
Valle 1971 points out that hyperbaton, the breaking of the normal union
of syntactic elements by the insertion of other words, occurs in Homer not
for stylistic but for metrical reasons, primarily the need for expansion or
for placing certain words in a particular metrical position. In appendixes
he discusses the various types of splitting: by a preposition (e.g., philên es
patrida gaian), by a verb (e.g., nees êluthon amphielissai), by a noun (e.g.,
Dios noon aigiochoio), and by other parts of speech. Unfortunately he gives
very few
examples of each type. Tsopanakis 1983, a very detailed work, studies
and classifies the metrical irregularities in final syllables (long syllable
in hiatus not shortened; short syllable in hiatus not elided; open or closed
short syllable counted as long), which Parry had attributed to modification
or juxtaposition of formulae, and examines those which occur because of
hyperbaton, tmesis, anastrophe, enjambement, and other variations from
natural word-order. He concludes that often there is more than one factor
contributing to the appearance of an irregularity.
In his study of the origin of the Homeric hexameter, Nagy has fine
examples of the expansion of formulae (1974:49-102). Minton 1975, after
an analysis of formulae in Hesiod’s Theogony, has some good pages on the
ways in which the formulae fit into the cola of the verse, including three-part
verses (46-54). Friedrich 1975 compares the order of words and clauses in
Homeric Greek and in Proto-Indo-European. Peabody’s study of Hesiod’s
compositional technique (1975) includes a rather obscure section on formulae
and cola (pp. 96-114). Muellner 1976, though primarily concerned with uses
of the word euchomai, contains many useful illustrations of manipulation
and juxtaposition of formulae. Houben 1977 studies the sequence of main
and subordinate clauses in Homeric Greek. O’Nolan 1978 lists numerous
“doublets” in Homer, expressions composed of two synonymous terms
(English “with might and main”; Homeric kata phrena kai kata thumon,
etc.), discusses their meaning, and shows how they fit within the verse in
various metrical circumstances. Powell 1978 and Edwards 1980 examine the
formulaic expressions that occur in the Catalogue of Ships in Iliad Book 2.
Ingalls 1982 examines some mythological digressions in the Iliad and finds
they contain “an inordinately large number of late linguistic features and . . .
there is much evidence of the formular modification necessary to incorporate
the new language into the traditional verse” (206). Miller (1982:57-69) lists
and discusses phonological parallels in formulae. Mueller (1984:148-58),
in an interesting but controversial chapter, suggests that sometimes the
poet’s mind “does not operate with a stock of formulas but copies parts of a
particular text inscribed in its memory” (p. 158).
Russo 1971 and 1976, Ingalls 1972 and 1976, and Rossi 1978 give
surveys of much of the above work.
Analogy, “schematizations,” and “structural formulae”
In his major monograph Parry had demonstrated the force of analogy
in the formation of Homeric expressions, and used it to explain some metrical
faults: “Analogy is perhaps the single most important factor for us to grasp
if we are to arrive at a real understanding of Homeric diction” (1971:68). He
also pointed out that “a great many equivalent noun-epithet formulae derive
naturally from that operation of analogy which, as we saw, is the dominant
factor in the development of hexametric diction from its beginning to its
end” (p. 176); the normal formula is anax hekaergos Apollôn, but anax Dios
huios Apollôn is also found by analogy with Dios huios Apollôn. Parry is
also aware of the importance of parallels of sound (p. 72f., 319f.). In a later
study Parry spoke of analogical systems in which one word was exchanged
for a metrically identical substitute, such as autar epeidê zessen/speuse/teuxe
(p. 276), and he adds perceptive remarks about alge’ ethêke and the parallel
expressions with changes in each of the two words (pp. 308-9). Further on
he remarks that “teuche kunessin is like dôken hetairôi” (p. 313), without
elaborating the point that here both words are different and the similarities
are only in meter and syntax.
Russo 1963 takes up this last point, and says: “I should like to suggest
an approach that follows Parry’s lead in seeking localized phrases whose
resemblance goes no further than the use of identical metrical word-types
of the same grammatical and syntactic pattern, as truly representing certain
more general types of formulaic systems” (237). O’Neill (see section 2)
showed that words occur in the hexameter at preferred positions according
to their metrical shape; Russo points out that certain grammatical types, of
certain metrical shapes, also have preferred positions. He gives an analysis
of Iliad 1.1-7 along these lines (241f.), finding (for example) nouns shaped
- u followed by a verb shaped u - - at the verse-end (alge’ ethêke, muthon
eeipen), and reversed, verb - u followed by noun u - - (teuche kunessin). In
another article (1966) he analyzes further passages (using the term “structural
formula” for this kind of system), and, finding such patterns more common
in Homer than in Apollonius, suggests that they are an indication of oral
composition. An appendix lists a number of structural formulae according
to their position in the verse.
Hainsworth 1964 and Minton 1965 perceive the value of
Russo’s emphasis that “phrases of a given metrical value and internal shape,
expressing a more or less constant syntactic relationship within themselves,
tend to have a very limited placement in the hexameter line” (Minton
1965:243), but express doubt that this is a mark of oral composition.
Their reservations were confirmed by Packard 1976. By use of computer
programs for automatic hexameter scansion and automatic morphological
analysis of Homeric Greek, Packard checked the occurrences of some
of Russo’s patterns of structural formulae in Odyssey 1 with those in an
equivalent number of verses of Quintus of Smyrna’s Posthomerica (4th
century A.D.). He found that sometimes the one poet has more examples,
sometimes the other, and that of all Russo’s list of patterns, in the samples
examined Homer has 87 occurrences and Quintus 106. Packard also found
some patterns which occur significantly more frequently in Quintus than
in Homer. Oral composition is thus obviously not the reason for the these
structural formulae, but their existence in hexameter poetry is obviously of
much interest.
Abramowicz 1972
S. Abramowicz. “Répétitions et hantises verbales chez Homère.” Eos, 60:223-34.
Bowra 1963
C. M. Bowra. “Style.” In A Companion to Homer. Ed. A. J. B. Wace and F. H. Stubbings.
London: Macmillan. pp. 26-37.
Calhoun 1933
G. M. Calhoun. “Homeric Repetitions.” University of California Publications in Classical
Philology, 12:1-25.
Cantilena 1982
M. Cantilena. Ricerche sulla dizione epica. I. Per uno studio della formularità degli Inni
Omerici. Filologia e critica, 42. Rome: Edizioni dell’Ateneo.
Chantraine 1932
P. Chantraine. “Remarques sur l’emploi des formules dans le premier chant de l’Iliade.”
Revue des études grecques, 45:121-54.
Edwards 1966
M. W. Edwards. “Some Features of Homeric Craftmanship.” Transactions of the American
Philological Association, 97:115-79.
Edwards 1968
__________. “Some Stylistic Notes on Iliad XVIII.” American Journal of Philology,
Edwards 1969
__________. “On Some ‘Answering’ Expressions in Homer.” Classical Philology, 64:8187.
Edwards 1970
__________. “Homeric Speech Introductions.” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology,
Edwards 1980
__________. “The Structure of Homeric Catalogues.” Transactions of the American
Philological Association, 110:81-105.
Friedrich 1975
P. Friedrich. Proto-Indo-European Syntax: The Order of Meaningful Elements. Butte:
Journal of IE Studies Monographs.
Glavičić 1968
B. Glavičić. “Sulle peculiarità sintattiche del terzo colon di Omero.” Živa antika, 18:16198 (in Serbo-Croatian with Italian résumé).
Glavičić 1969
__________. “II terzo colon di Omero, come unità sintattica.” Živa antika, 19:175-206 (in
Serbo-Croatian with Italian résumé).
Glavičić 1971
__________. “Sur l’ordre plus complexe des mots dans l’oeuvre d’Homère.” Živa antika,
19:443-62 (in Serbo-Croatian with French résumé).
Hainsworth 1964
J. B. Hainsworth. “Structure and Content in Epic Formulae: The Question of the Unique
Expression.” Classical Quarterly, 14:155-64.
Hainsworth 1968
__________. The Flexibility of the Homeric Formula. Oxford: Clarendon.
Hainsworth 1976
__________. “Phrase-clusters in Homer.” In Studies in Greek, Italic, and Indo-European
Linguistics Offered to Leonard R. Palmer. Ed. A. M. Davies and W. Meid. Innsbruck:
Becvar. pp. 83-86.
Hainsworth 1978
__________“Good and Bad Formulae.” In Homer: Tradition and Invention. Ed. B. C.
Fenik. Leiden: Brill. pp. 41-50.
Hoekstra 1964
A. Hoekstra. Homeric Modifications of Formulaic Prototypes. Amsterdam: N. V. NoordHollandsche Uitgevers Maatschappij.
Houben 1977
J. L. Houben. “Word-order Change and Subordination in Homeric Greek.” Journal of
Indo-European Studies, 5:1-8.
Ingalls 1972
W. Ingalls. “Another Dimension of the Homeric Formula.” Phoenix, 26:111-22.
Ingalls 1976
__________. “The Analogical Formula in Homer.” Transactions of the American
Philological Association, 106:211-16.
Ingalls 1982
__________. “Linguistic and Formular Innovation in the Mythological Digressions in the
Iliad.” Phoenix, 36:201-8.
Janko 1981
R. Janko. “Equivalent Formulae in the Greek Epos.” Mnemosyne, 34:251-64.
Kiparsky 1976
P. Kiparsky. “Oral Poetry: Some Linguistic and Typological Considerations.” In Oral
Literature and the Formula. Ed. B. A. Stolz and R. S. Shannon III. Ann Arbor: Center for
Coordination of Ancient and Modern Studies. pp. 73-106.
Latacz 1979
J. Latacz. Homer: Tradition and Neuerung. Wege der Forschung, 173. Darmstadt:
Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.
Miller 1982
D. G. Miller. Homer and the Ionian Epic Tradition: Some Phonic and Phonological
Evidence against an Aeolic ‘Phase.’ Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft, 38.
Innsbruck: Rauchdruck Ges.
Miller and Windelberg 1981
__________. and M. L. Windelberg. A Text Linguistic Analysis of Formulaic Composition
(provisional title; forthcoming).
Minton 1965
W. W. Minton. “The Fallacy of the Structural Formula.” Transactions of the American
Philological Association, 96:241-53.
Minton 1975
_________. “The Frequency and Structuring of Traditional Formulas in Hesiod’s
Theogony.” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, 79:25-54.
Mueller 1984
M. Mueller. The Iliad. London: Allen & Unwin.
Muellner 1976
L. C. Muellner. The Meaning of Homeric EYXOMAI Through its Formulas. Innsbrucker
Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft, 13. Innsbruck: Becvar.
Muñoz Valle 1971
I. Muñoz Valle. “Las motivaciones del hipérbaton en los poemas homéricos.” Cuadernos
de filología clásica, II:165-86.
Nagler 1967
M. N. Nagler. “Towards a Generative View of the Homeric Formula.” Transactions of the
American Philological Association, 98:269-311.
Nagler 1974
__________. Spontaneity and Tradition: A Study in the Oral Art of Homer. Berkeley:
University of California Press.
Nagy 1974
G. Nagy. Comparative Studies in Greek and Indic Meter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.
Nagy 1976
__________. “Formula and Meter.” In Oral Literature and the Formula. Ed. B. A. Stolz
and R. S. Shannon III. Ann Arbor: Center for Coordination of Ancient and Modern Studies.
pp. 239-60.
O’Nolan 1978
K. O’Nolan. “Doublets in the Odyssey.” Classical Quarterly, 28:23-27.
Packard 1976
D. W. Packard.“Metrical and Grammatical Patterns in the Greek Hexameter.” In The
Computer in Literary and Linguistic Studies: Proceedings of the Third International
Symposium. Ed. A. Jones and R. F. Churchhouse. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. pp.
Paraskevaides 1984
H. Paraskevaides. The Use of Synonyms in the Homeric Formulaic Diction. Amsterdam:
Parry 1971
Milman Parry. The Making of Homeric Verse: The Collected Papers of Milman Parry. Ed.
A. Parry. Oxford: Clarendon.
Patzer 1970
H. Patzer. Dichterische Kunst und poetisches Handwerk im Homerischen Epos. Wiesbaden:
Franz Steiner Verlag.
Peabody 1975
B. Peabody. The Winged Word: A Study in the Technique of Ancient Greek Oral Composition
as Seen Principally through Hesiod’s Works and Days. Albany: State University of New
York Press.
Pope 1963
M. W. M. Pope. “The Parry-Lord Theory of Homeric Composition.” Acta Classica, 6:121.
Powell 1978
B. B. Powell. “Word Patterns in the Catalogue of Ships (B494-709). A Structural Analysis
of Homeric Language.” Hermes, 106:255-64.
Rossi 1978
L. E. Rossi. “I Poemi omerici come testimonianza di poesia orale.” In Storia e civiltà dei
Greci. Milan: Bompiani. I.1. pp. 73-147.
Russo 1963
J. A. Russo. “A Closer Look at Homeric Formulas.” Transactions of the American
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Russo 1966
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Russo 1971
__________. “The Meaning of Oral Poetry. The Collected Papers of Milman Parry: A
Critical Re-assessment” Quaderni Urbinati di cultura classica, 12:27-39.
Russo 1976
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for Coordination of Ancient and Modern Studies. pp. 31-54.
Schmiel 1984
R. Schmeil. “Metrically-interchangeable Formulae and Phrase-clusters in Homer.”
Liverpool Classical Monthly, 9.3:34-38.
Tsopanakis 1983
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of the Verse. Thessaloniki: University of Thessaloniki.
Woodlock 1981
L. T. Woodlock. “Noun-verb Associations and the Formula in Homer’s Iliad.” Dissertation
Abstracts, 42:683A.
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Arion, 6:279.324.
§ 4: The History of Homeric Formulae: Homer, the Homeric Hymns, and Later
Homeric formulae have a long life-span. A few have been thought to
date from the Mycenaean period (around 1400 BC) or even earlier. They are
found in Hesiod, who composed about the same time as Homer, and continue
on in epic, didactic, hymnic, and oracular hexameters, in elegiac couplets, and
even in lyric poetry. And because of Homer’s immense influence they are found
in archaizing hexameters far into the Roman period.
Homer and before Homer
How old are the Homeric formulae? Both Page (1959:218-96) and
Webster (1958:91-135), writing soon after the decipherment of the Mycenaean
script, and influenced by the evidence of old forms in the epic dialect and by
the Iliad’s descriptions of places and objects which ceased to exist after the
Mycenaean period, considered that some Homeric formulae might go back to
Mycenaean times. Kirk 1961 gives a useful review of the evidence, pointing
out that cultural details could have survived in a non-poetic tradition, and is
agnostic about survival of formulae; much could have been developed during the
“Dark Age” between the Mycenaean period and the 8th century. Durante 1981
investigated the pre-Ionian period of Greek epic poetry and found a number of
Mycenaean legacies; in a second volume (1976) he listed Vedic parallels for
certain aspects of Homeric poetry, notably in meter, epithets, metaphor and
simile, personification, hymnic form, and the terminology of poetic creativity.
Even richer in Vedic and other parallels to Homeric expressions is Schmitt 1967,
which includes chapters on heroic poetry, epithets and attributes of divinities,
sacred (or hymnic) poetry, and meter. (See also many of the essays in Schmitt
1968.) Horrocks 1980 points out that in Homer preverbs which are not attached
to the verb stand either initially in the clause or before the direct object. Vedic
parallels suggest that this is a Proto-Indo-European usage, but since it does
not occur in the Mycenaean of the Linear B tablets Horrocks suggests it was
preserved only in dactylic poetry, which thus must have existed during, and
even before, the Mycenaean period. Horrocks discusses three formulaic systems
which he claims support
this theory.
If the traditional language derives from Mycenaean times, the
question arises whether there was more than a single line of descent. Taking
up an idea put forward some twenty-five years ago by Notopoulos 1960,
Pavese has argued in a series of monographs and articles (1972, 1974, 1981)
that differences in language and formulaic usage show that there developed
in mainland Greece a poetic tradition, including Hesiod, the composers of
the Hymns, and those of later choral lyric, which was separate from that
of Homer’s Ionia; Pavese holds that the two streams both derive from a
common source prior to the Ionian migration. Pavese’s work on the language
and formulaic usage in early poetry is very valuable, but it is not clear that
the contact between the mainland and Ionia during the period between the
migration to Ionia (about 1000 BC) and the 8th century was ever so slight as
to foster such different poetic traditions. The recent work of Mureddu 1983,
which shows that the formulae for major characters in Homer and Hesiod
are virtually identical, has made Pavese’s view even harder to accept.
At all events, there are few formulae likely to date from long before
Homer’s time. Hainsworth 1962 confronts the problem of why there are so
few clearly identifiable survivals of Mycenaean language or culture in Homer,
if the tradition derives from that period, and concludes that old formulae
have been replaced by new. This important article begins his studies of the
flexibility of formulae, worked out later in his book (1968). His next article
(1964) also deals with the question of new formulae. After pointing out
that formulae develop only at a limited number of positions in the verse, he
studies how the poet creates a new expression if no suitable formula already
exists, illustrating the techniques of adaptation and substitution the poet
adopts; he then examines the unique expressions at certain points, showing
that in each category the number of expressions which have no evident source
far exceeds the total of those apparently adapted or constructed on the basis
of known patterns. This proves that the poet used more creativity than is
sometimes attributed to him, even allowing for our limited sample of Greek
epic poetry. Hainsworth returns to the topic in his important Cincinnati talk
(1978), discussing the process of sorting and selection of formulae. There is
a conflict between special epithets (e.g. polumêtis), reserved for a particular
hero and giving richness and color, and
“generic” ones (e.g. dios), applicable to anyone and useful for ease and
economy. Nominative formulae for the main gods use few generic epithets
(klutos, kreiôn are representative), and the mundane thea leukôlenos Hêrê
spreads at the expense of the more dramatic boôpis potnia Hêrê. Similarly,
formulae for a helmet show an influx of commonplace epithets (chalkeios,
etc.) beside the old, mysterious ones like tetraphalêros. Special epithets like
anax andrôn are occasionally taken over for other heroes. “The formula
becomes outmoded. Its colour turns first into the rust of archaism, and finally
into the magnificence of the unknown and incomprehensible: at which stage
the old formula is ripe for replacement by the neutral product of generative
processes, and the cycle begins anew” (p. 50).
Hoekstra’s very important monograph (1964) examines certain
phenomena of linguistic innovation in early Greek, specifically quantitative
metathesis, the observance or neglect of initial digamma, and the use of
movable n, showing that in each case the innovation in language has led
to increased flexibility in declining, conjugating, and otherwise adapting
formulae. So linguistic innovations affected the development of epic style
and brought changes in the epic diction. In a later article (1975) Hoekstra
analyzes the usage of several expressions and identifies innovations which
have entered the diction under the influence of spoken contemporary Ionic.
He also shows (1978) that certain cases of metrical lengthening (āponeesthai,
āneres) are connected with evolution of epic diction, and that certain types
arose from substitution in other phrases which are demonstrably late; proti
Ilion āponeesthai is adapted from Ilion aipu neesthai, and other cases arose
by analogy. Metrical lengthening is thus due to different causes and occurred
at different stages in the evolution of epic diction. In another monograph
(1981) he carries further his investigation of the relationship between Homer
and the traditional phraseology, treating several problems involving the
occurrence of hiatus at the mid-verse caesura and the influence of spoken
Ionic on the use of generalizing te. He also discusses West’s views (1973)
on the origins of Greek meters (see section 2), concluding that “it seems
certain that the earliest narrative poetry that has left any traces in Homer was
already composed in hexameter” (p. 53). An examination of the invention
of significant names suggests that they have strong links with the mainland
and were probably already fixed in verse before the Ionian migration. A
examination of the amplitudo or fullness of some epic expressions (a whole
verse means only “then he answered”) leads to the same conclusion, that
epic narrative had already taken the metrical form of the hexameter before
it emigrated to Ionia. The amplitudo too is more likely to have arisen in
Mycenaean times.
The ancient question of the composition of the Iliad and the Odyssey,
and the relationship between them, has also been approached through
examination of formulae. Page 1955 produced a useful list of words and
expressions which occur in one poem but not in the other, and asserted that
the traditional vocabulary and stock of formulae of the Iliad were so different
from those of the Odyssey that the two poets must have been separated not
only in time but in locality. Page did not use statistical checks, and the
number of occurrences of some of his examples is low; his argument was
severely damaged by a demonstration (Young 1959) that a similarly loose
technique can show that Paradise Lost could not have been composed by
the same author as Milton’s other poems.
In an article on the Homeric Hymns (see below), Postlethwaite 1979
suggested that the poet’s facility in handling the various kinds of techniques
for modifying formulae (as studied by Hainsworth 1968) can be used to
identify the stylistic traits of individual poets. In a later article (1981) he
applied the same technique of analysis to the “continuation” of the Odyssey
(from 23.297 to the end), finding “quite radical stylistic differences” from
the parts of the epics he used as a control. He found mobility of formulae
less common than elsewhere (including in the Hymns), separation of
component parts twice as common as in the control passages (and close
to the Hymns), and expansion more than twice as common as in the rest of
the Odyssey (though here, as Postlethwaite indicates, the figures are small,
and show [for what they are worth] that the phenomenon is three times
as frequent in the Odyssey as in the Iliad). Postlethwaite concludes that
the “continuation” is by a different poet than the Iliad and the rest of the
Odyssey, and the similarity in quantity of formulaic diction must be due to
conscious imitation. These striking results need careful consideration by
other scholars.
Hesiod is agreed to be roughly a contemporary of Homer (some
placing him a little earlier, some a little later), and a number of works have
been specifically devoted to comparison of his use of formulae and Homer’s.
A useful start was made with the listing in Kretschmer 1913 of phrases
repeated within each of the major poems and within the corpus as a whole,
with Homeric references added where relevant, though his work is far from
complete. Sellschopp 1934 devotes much of her study of Hesiod’s use of
epithets to an examination of lines and phrases common to his work and to
the Odyssey, deciding that the latter can often be shown to be the later work;
her work is still useful, but her results have to a large extent been refuted by
G. P. Edwards (see below). Hoekstra 1957 began his very important work on
formulae with the problem of how far Hesiod was influenced by formulaic
diction, and studied the Hesiodic modifications of Homeric formulae. He
concluded that Hesiod’s formulae are much the same as Homer’s but at a
later stage of development.
Notopoulos 1960 pointed out the importance of Kretschmer’s
demonstration that there are formulae within Hesiod which do not occur in
Homer, and claimed that these were formulae of a regional Boeotian school
of poetry. He worked out statistics (now outdated) for formulaic repetitions
in Hesiod, based on Kretschmer’s lists and the Homeric repetitions listed in
Rzach’s 1902 edition of Hesiod. Krafft 1963 studied the meaning of certain
words and phrases in Hesiod in comparison with the Homeric meaning,
and concluded with a useful listing (according to their position in the verse)
of formulae which occur only within Hesiod or are common to Hesiod
and Homer, identifying those which occur once only or more than once in
Homer. Angier 1964 goes beyond formulaic usage and deals with verbal and
thematic repetitions as an organizing device in the Theogony. Rosenmeyer
1965 discusses Hesiod’s use of formulae, finding indications that they may
bear a closer relationship to the context than they do in Homer, and that
Hesiod “tends to compose, not only in formulas, but in words. . . . In the
end the word, not the formula, determines the progress and the unity of his
speech” (307). In Matsen 1968 (which I have not seen) “the Works and Days
is examined in the light of the three Parry/Lord criteria for oral composition:
formulae, enjambement, themes” (3989A).
In his major edition of the Theogony (1966), West gives his view that
this may be the oldest Greek poem we have, and lists (after Krafft) some of
the Hesiodic, non-Homeric formulae, but he has no separate discussion. In
his edition of the Works and Days (1978) and in his study of The Hesiodic
Catalogue of Women (1985) he does not treat formulae. His discussion of
orality in the Works and Days (1981) is mentioned in section 8.
G. P. Edwards 1971 is an important and comprehensive comparison
of Hesiod and Homer, including (after a review of previous studies) an
examination of similar word-forms, parallel phrases, verbal repetitions,
formulae, and formulaic systems. Edwards found that Hesiod’s observation
of economy is not so close as Homer’s. In addition, he studied parallels
arising from similarity of sound (an innovative approach), the versification
and use of enjambement, and the special question of phrases common to
Hesiod and the Odyssey, where he disproves Sellschopp’s arguments that
some Odyssean expressions derive from Hesiod. He concluded that Hesiod’s
use of formulae is much like Homer’s, and that the two must be considered
similar in “orality”; he thought that Notopoulos’ theory of two separate
streams of poetic tradition surviving from pre-migration times in Ionia
and in mainland Greece was most improbable in the light of the extensive
similarities between Homeric and Hesiodic diction, and that “the most
economical hypothesis may be that the Iliad and Odyssey already existed
and were known on the Greek mainland by Hesiod’s time” (p. 203).
As part of his argument for separate Ionian and mainland poetic
traditions (see above), Pavese (1972:35f.) discusses non-Homeric elements
in Hesiod’s language, and lists (p. 121f.) by metrical position all repeated
expressions not found in Homer but occurring (1) within the works of
Hesiod; (2) in Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns; (3) in Hesiod and archaic
lyric; (4) in Hesiod, the Hymns, archaic lyric, and archaic elegiac; and (5)
in Hesiod and in lyric poetry. He also examines (p. 165f.) the flexibility
Hesiod shows in manipulating formulae, on Hainsworth’s principles (see
section 3), and the overlapping formulae which violate economy.
Minton 1975 accepts G. P. Edwards’ demonstration of the oral
character of Hesiod’s work, tackles the problem of comparing the density
of formulae in Hesiod and Homer, and works out a more refined system of
calculating the proportion of formulae (see section 8). He finds 57.5% of
Homer pure formula, compared with
36.6% of the Theogony and slightly over 22% of the Works and Days. He
gives a very careful analysis of two 25-verse samples from the Theogony.
Peabody 1975 is a large and difficult work (for a sympathetic appreciation
see M. N. Nagler’s review in Arion, n.s. 3/3 [1976]: 365-77) which bases
most of its exposition on the Works and Days. Peabody is interested in the
relationship of the formulae to the cola of the verse (see above, section 2)
rather than in individual formulae; his appendices list the metrical shapes
of words occurring in the poem, the ways in which they appear in the verse,
and the arrangement of cola.
In order to discover if Hesiod uses the same formulae as Homer
to express similar concepts under the same metrical conditions, Mureddu
1983 examines noun-epithet formulae occurring in all grammatical cases
and verse-positions for a number of divinities and for “mankind,” “gods,”
Olympus, the sea, and sexual union. She finds a remarkable overall unity
in the Homeric and Hesiodic usages; in only a very few cases does Hesiod
replace a Homeric formula with an alternative. This demonstration of the
uniformity of this aspect of Ionic and mainland poetic diction argues strongly,
perhaps decisively, against the theory of separate traditions descending from
Mycenaean times. Verdenius 1985, a new commentary on the Works and
Days, does not discuss formulae.
The Homeric Hymns
Three of the four long Homeric Hymns (those to Demeter, Apollo,
and Aphrodite) are dated not much later than Homer, and the fourth (to
Hermes) is usually considered not later than the fifth century; so their
usage of formulae has attracted a good deal of study. Porter 1949 deals
with repetition of words, sounds, and themes in the Hymn to Aphrodite, but
not with formulae. Post-Parryan studies of the relationship of the Homeric
Hymns to Homer began with Notopoulos 1962, who published a formulaic
analysis of lines 1-18 of the Hymn to Apollo and gave figures and percentages
of formulaic verses in the four long Hymns, compared with samples from
the Iliad, Odyssey, and the main works of Hesiod. He declared that this
showed the oral character of the Hymns. This pioneering work is open to
criticism both because of its easy equation of “formulaic” with “oral” and
because of the
looseness of the principles on which formulae are identified, and it has now
been superseded.
Preziosi 1966 is a careful study of the Hymn to Aphrodite, identifying
Homeric formulae and analogous phrases found in the Hymn, and formulae
and analogous phrases recurring within the Hymn itself. She found that
75.5% of verses in the Hymn contain formulae found in Homer, usually in
the same metrical position, or 44.25% of its metra. Expressions analogous
to those found in Homer (Parry’s “system of schematization”) occur in 23%
of verses (11.5% of metra). Fifty-nine non-Homeric formulae recur within
the Hymn, in 36% of its verses (22.5% of the metra); expressions analogous
to others within the Hymn are found in 35.5% of the verses (14% of the
Hoekstra 1969 examines the Hymns to Apollo, Aphrodite, and
Demeter to see whether they show a different stage of development from
that in the Homeric epics. He studies the evidence of vocabulary, inflection,
substitution within formulae, juxtaposition of formulae, and non-Homeric
archaisms of formulae in these Hymns, and concludes that in the Delian
part of the Hymn to Apollo only the final part (the gatherings at Delos, about
lines 140-81) shows oddities; in the Pythian part of this Hymn there are
few oddities but they suggest sub-epic composition, with archaisms due
to the poetic genre; the Hymn to Aphrodite shows modifications in diction
which are not matched in Homer and argue for a later stage of development;
and the Hymn to Demeter also presents un-Homeric modifications and a
development beyond the Homeric stage.
Richardson’s edition of the Hymn to Demeter (1974) usefully prints
formulaic parallels in Homer, Hesiod, and the other Hymns, discusses
coincidences with certain Homeric passages (p. 31f.), and lists expressions
which have parallels in Hesiod but not Homer, those which are adaptations of
Homeric expressions, those which are paralleled in the Hymn to Aphrodite,
and new or adapted proper-name formulae. He suggests this Hymn was
composed later than, and with an awareness of, at least the Theogony and
perhaps the Iliad and Odyssey. He also discusses the occasional lack of
formulaic economy and the use of enjambement (see section 5 below).
Richardson does not take a stand on whether this is oral composition or
a good literary imitation of one. In his Appendix II, Richardson discusses
the relationship to his own work of G. P. Edwards’ researches on Hesiodic
diction and the language, Hoekstra’s work on the use of moveable n, and the
question of oral
poetry and the use of writing, sensibly pointing out the ambiguities in both
terms (“both literate and illiterate poets premeditate”) and that no one doubts
that the long Hymns were composed for recitation and used traditional
techniques of epic composition.
Gaisser 1974 appeared in the same year as Richardson’s work. She
compares the use of noun-epithet combinations in the Hymn to Demeter
with that in Homer, and looks for differences from the Homeric norm
which occur also in Hesiod and the other Hymns (showing herself aware
that Homeric usage itself is not monolithic). She has major sections on
Hesiodic expressions in the Hymn (finding Homeric vocabulary used in
new combinations), expressions that use non-Homeric, non-Hesiodic
vocabulary, expressions using Homeric vocabulary in a non-Homeric way
(“an individual quirk of style”), and a few expressions not found in Homer
or Hesiod but occurring in other Hymns. Gaisser concludes that this Hymn
is close to Hesiod in style, especially in a tendency to use nouns which
are not found in noun-epithet combinations in Homer, and in its different
handling of generic epithets. There are also apparently individual stylistic
features in choice of vocabulary, and in length and positioning of nounepithet combinations. In the final section of his second monograph on the
epic tradition (Pavese 1974), the author discusses late linguistic features in
Hesiod and the Hymns and presents statistics on the percentages of formulae
in samples of the two parts of the Hymn to Apollo and the Hymn to Hermes
(p. 117, note 6). Schröder 1975 is a concise and complicated monograph
which carefully compares the formulaic expressions in the Delian part of
the Hymn to Apollo and the Iliad, concluding that the former is older than
our Iliad in its present form. Càssola’s edition of the Hymns (1975) does
not list the formulae. Van Nortwick’s dissertation on the Hymn to Hermes
(1975) studies the noun-epithet combinations (especially for Hermes and
Apollo) in that Hymn and in Homer, finding a variety of new usages; he also
examines certain whole-verse expressions, the use of enjambement, and the
sentence-structure. Pellizer 1978 is concerned with verbal repetitions rather
than formulae.
A very interesting recent development is the suggestion by
Postlethwaite 1979 that one can use as a mark of oral composition “the
composer’s facility in handling the various types of formula modification,”
and further, that “the variations in frequency of these modifications [in the
four long Hymns] may reflect individual stylistic traits in their composers”
(1). He analyzes the usage of
common-noun + epithet word-groups (following Hainsworth’s technique,
see section 3) in order to examine how frequently they are moved to alternative
positions or modified by expansion or separation of their elements. Samples
of 430 lines each of the Iliad and Odyssey are used as a control (and are found
to be much alike). He finds a greater mobility of expressions in the Hymns
than in Homer (with the exception of the Hymn to Demeter), and a greater
frequency of separation of elements and of expansion. He concludes that
the probability is that if the Homeric epics were orally composed, so were
the Hymns, since they show the same techniques of mutation of formulae;
but that there is considerable variation among the individual Hymns, which
is probably due to individual composers. Some might quibble over minor
details of Postlethwaite’s study, and the total figures for such relatively short
compositions are regrettably low, but his results give support to a view
which is itself intrinsically probable.
Several papers presented at a convention held in Venice in 1977 and
published in 1981 deal in detail with formulaic usage in the Hymns. Segal
1981 examines the formulaic artistry in the Hymn to Demeter, and considers
the poem is an oral work but shows divergences from the Homeric practice;
there is more variation of epithets, more violation of economy, and more
“necessary” enjambement. He argues that it certainly marks a stage beyond
Homer. Segal gives special treatment to the distinctive accumulation
of epithets in a single verse (p. 112), the variations of formulae (p. 119),
non-formulaic usage at times of special significance, the theme of time,
and expressions for wrath and grief. All this may be an individual poet’s
natural organic development, a work dependent on inherited tradition but
also sophisticated and artistically self-conscious. Kirk 1981 discusses
the familiar problems of the relationship of the Delian and Pythian parts
of the Hymn to Apollo, together with the criteria for dating. He finds no
evidence of a distinct non-Ionic mainland tradition beyond Hesiod. He then
provides a commentary on the Hymn, drawing attention to modifications of
Homeric language. Kirk is particularly critical of the handling of some parts
of the Pythian section, finding a “maladroit bending of particular Homeric
passages” (p. 179). He concludes that “both parts typically exemplify subepic technique, which is not, I think, a fully oral one” (p. 180). Herter 1981
examines the numerous formulae common to the Hymn to Hermes and
Homer, and discusses how
the poet has varied the old formulae to suit his theme. He notes that a good
many formulae seem to come from early but non-Homeric epic (p. 194).
Pavese 1981 repeats his view that the works of Hesiod, the Hymns, and
the epic cycle were orally composed in a mainland tradition independent
of the Ionic tradition of Homer, summarizing the arguments of his earlier
monographs (1972, 1974).
Cantilena 1982 is a careful monograph giving a comprehensive
formulaic analysis of each of the Hymns; the author tabulates the formulaic
density, verse by verse, in each Hymn, and prints a list of formulae and
formulaic expressions which do not occur in other early epic. He also gives
a line-by-line commentary on the treatment of formulaic expressions in each
Hymn. Cantilena agrees with Pavese’s view of a mainland oral tradition,
including Hesiod and the Hymns, which is separate from the Ionic. He gives
a good summary of previous work, and a full discussion of whether the
Hymns are oral or not. In appendices he lists the proportion of formulae in
every verse of the Hymns, the percentage of formulaic language calculated
by Notopoulos’ method, and the formulae recurring in the Hymns which
occur in or are similar to those occurring in Homer, Hesiod, and other
Hymns. There is much of value in Cantilena’s work, but it must now be
considered in association with Janko’s (see below).
Janko 1982 is an impressive work and of great importance. The
author sets out to examine, and to tabulate statistically, the use of innovative
and archaizing diction in Hesiod and the Hymns, and gives excellent
summaries and assessments of previous work over this large area, including
the validity of various tests for oral poetry and the use of non-Homeric
formulae in Hesiod and the Hymns. Examining certain kinds of linguistic
changes, he observes a small development from the Iliad to the Odyssey, a
larger one to the Theogony, and a further small one to the Works and Days.
The changes between the Iliad and Odyssey (Ionian poetry) are mirrored
in those between the Theogony and Works and Days, which suggests that
mainland poetry fell under Ionian domination because of the pre-eminence
of Homer. He then uses statistical methods to fit the results of his application
of the criteria to the Hymns within this framework. After detailed treatment
of each of the longer Hymns, he concludes that the epic was brought from
some area of Mycenaean culture and evolved in the Aeolic settlements in
Asia Minor during the Dark Ages. One branch
continued to develop in the northern parts of this area, subject to later
influence by the Ionic tradition, producing the Hymn to Aphrodite and the
Cypria, whereas in the southern part Ionic-speakers took over, not long
before the Homeric poems, and added several new features to the diction
from their vernacular. Here the Iliad (perhaps about 750) and the Odyssey
(perhaps about 735) were created, and later the Delian part of the Hymn
to Apollo (perhaps about 655). The Ionian tradition was taken to Boeotia,
and used by Hesiod (together with some Attic and Aeolic influence) in the
Theogony (perhaps about 670) and the Works and Days (perhaps about 650).
Later on, the mainland tradition took on peculiar characteristics, such as the
false archaism which shows up in the Catalogue of Women (which can hardly
be earlier than the Theogony but shows slightly earlier features of diction)
and the Hymn to Demeter. These characteristics increase in the later Shield
of Heracles, the Pythian part of the Hymn to Apollo (both after 600), and the
Hymn to Hermes (in the later sixth century). Janko includes good accounts
of previous work and adds to our knowledge in many different areas, and
shows himself aware (p. 191) of an important corollary of his work—that
if his observations are correct (which seems indubitable, though some may
quarrel here and there with the force of the deductions he makes from them)
the texts of the Homeric poems must have been fixed in some way, whether
by writing or memorization, before the time of Hesiod, and the other poems
too at the time of their composition, in order to freeze the diction at that
particular stage in its chronological and regional development.
Later Poetry
Studies of the use of Homeric formulae in later Greek poetry must
be listed summarily:
Lyric poetry: Page 1963, Aloni 1981 (Archilochus); Gentili 1969;
Giannini 1973 (elegiac); Mawet 1975 (epigrams).
Inscriptions: Di Tillio 1969.
Delphic oracles: McLeod 1961; Rossi 1981.
Batrachomyomachia: Glei 1984.
Panyassis: McLeod 1966; Matthews 1974.
Apollonius of Rhodes: Fränkel 1968; Campbell 1981b.
Quintus of Smyrna: Vian 1959; Campbell 1981a.
Aloni 1981
A. Aloni. Le Muse di Archiloco. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press.
Angier 1964
C. Angier. “Verbal Patterns in Hesiod’s Theogony.” Harvard Studies in Classical
Philology, 68:329-44.
Campbell 1981a
M. Campbell. A Commentary on Quintus Smyrnaeus Posthomerica XII. Mnemosyne
Supplement, 71. Leiden: Brill.
Campbell 198l b
__________. Echoes and Imitations of Early Epic in Apollonius Rhodius. Mnemosyne
Supplement, 72. Leiden: Brill.
Cantilena 1982
M. Cantilena. Ricerche sulla dizione epica: I. Per uno studio delta formularità degli Inni
Omerici. Filologia e critica, 42. Rome: Edizioni dell’Ateneo.
Cassola 1975
F. Cassola. Inni omerici. Milan: Mondadori.
Di Tillio 1969
Z. Di Tillio. “Confronti formulari e lessicali tra le iscrizioni esametriche ed elegiache dal
VII al V sec. a.C. e l’epos arcaico.” Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica, 7:45-73.
Durante 1971
M. Durante. Sulla preistoria della tradizione poetica greca I. Continuità della tradizione
poetica dell’età micenea ai primi documenti. Incunabula Graeca, 50. Rome: Edizioni
Durante 1976
__________. Sulla preistoria della tradizione poetica greca II. Risultanze delta
comparazione indoeuropea. Incunabula Graeca, 64. Rome: Edizioni dell’Ateneo.
Edwards 1971
P. Edwards. The Language of Hesiod. Oxford: Blackwell.
Fränkel 1968
H. Fränkel. Noten zu den Argonautika des Apollonios. Munich: Beck.
Gaisser 1974
J. H. Gaisser. “Noun-epithet Combinations in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter.” Transactions
of the American Philological Association, 104:113-37.
Gentili 1969
B. Gentili. “L’interpretazione dei lirici greci arcaici nella dimensione del nostro tempo.
Sincronia e diacronia nello studio di una cultura orale.” Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura
Classica, 8:7-21.
Giannini 1973
P. Giannini. “Espressioni formulari nell’elegia greca arcaica.” Quaderni Urbinati di
Cultura Classica, 16:7-78.
Glei 1984
R. Glei. Die Batrachomyomachie: Synoptische Edition und Kommentar.
Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Peter Lang.
Hainsworth 1962
J. B. Hainsworth. “The Homeric Formula and the Problem of Its Transmission.” Bulletin
of the London Institute of Classical Studies, 9:57-68.
Hainsworth 1964
__________. “Structure and Content in Epic Formulae: The Question of the Unique
Expression.” Classical Quarterly, 14:155-64.
Hainsworth 1968
__________. The Flexibility of the Homeric Formula. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Hainsworth 1978
__________. “Good and Bad Formulae.” In Homer: Tradition and Invention. Ed. B. C.
Fenik. Leiden: Brill. pp. 41-50.
Hainsworth 1981
__________. “Criteri di oralità nella poesia arcaica non omerica.” In I poemi epici rapsodici
non omerici e la tradizione orale: Atti del convegno di Venezia 28-30 settembre 1977. Ed.
C. Brillante, M. Cantilena, C. O. Pavese. Padova: Editrice Antenore. pp. 3-27.
Herter 1981
H. Herter. “L’inno omerico a Hermes alla luce della problematica della poesia orale.” In
I poemi epici rapsodici non omerici e la tradizione orale: Atti del convegno di Venezia
28-30 settembre 1977. Ed. C. Brillante, M. Cantilena, C. O. Pavese. Padova: Editrice
Antenore. pp. 183-201.
Hoekstra 1957
A. Hoekstra. “Hésiode et la tradition orale.” Mnemosyne, 10:193-225.
Hoekstra 1964
__________. Homeric Modifications of Formulaic Prototypes. Amsterdam: North-Holland
Publishing Company.
Hoekstra 1969
__________. The Sub-Epic Stage of the Formulaic Tradition. Amsterdam: North-Holland
Publishing Company.
Hoekstra 1975
__________. “Aèdes anciens et poètes ioniens: le témoignage de quelques expressions
homériques.” In Le Monde grec: Hommages à C. Préaux. Ed. J. Bingen, G. Cambrier, and
G. Nachtergael. Brussels: Editions de 1’ Université de Bruxelles. pp. 25-31.
Hoekstra 1978
__________. “Metrical Lengthening and Epic Diction.” Mnemosyne, 31:1-26.
Hoekstra 1981
__________. Epic Verse before Homer. Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing
Horrocks 1980
G. C. Horrocks. “The Antiquity of the Greek Epic Tradition: Some New Evidence.”
Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society, 26:1-11.
Janko 1982
R. Janko. Homer, Hesiod and the Hymns: Diachronic Development in Epic Diction.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kirk 1961
G. S. Kirk. “Dark Age and Oral Poet.” Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society,
7:34-48. Rpt. in Homer and the Oral Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
pp. 19-39.
Kirk 1981
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§ 5: Enjambement
Enjambement, the continuation of a sentence from one verse to
the next, is characteristic of Homer, but the nature of the running-over of
the sense is more restricted than in literate writers, and attempts have been
made to use this feature to differentiate oral from literate poetry. In Homer
the framework of the sentence
is usually clear, with at least two of subject, verb, and object expressed
before the enjambement occurs. This characteristic arises largely from the
use of formulaic diction, and probably eases both the poet’s composition
and the listeners’ comprehension.
Bassett 1926 examined the question whether an enjambing word
standing at the beginning of the verse and followed by a pause or sentenceend—the “runover” position—carries special emphasis. He counted about
3,000 examples in the Iliad and Odyssey, and examined in turn the finite
verbs, infinitives, nouns, adjectives, participles, adverbs, and pronouns
which occur in this position. He concluded that emphatic runover words
owe their emphasis to other considerations than their position, but that they
are important for their part in producing “civilité,” the continuity of thought
characteristic of Homeric verse. The idea is sound, though Bassett tended to
play down too much the striking emphasis of some runover words, and his
collection of material is still useful and could well form a basis for future
Parry 1929 divided enjambement into two types: “unperiodic,” in
which “the sentence, at the verse end, already gives a complete thought,”
and “necessary,” in which “the verse end [falls] at the end of a word group
where there is not yet a whole thought, or . . . in the middle of a word group”
(203). On this principle he categorized samples of 100 verses each from
six books of the Iliad, the Odyssey, Apollonius’ Argonautica, and Virgil’s
Aeneid, finding percentages of verses with no enjambement respectively
48.5%, 44.8%, 34.8%, and 38.3%; with “unperiodic” enjambement 24.8%,
26.6%, 16%, and 12.5%; and with “necessary” enjambement 26.6%, 28.5%,
49.1%, and 49.2%. The forms of “unperiodic” enjambement “more than
anything else, give the rhythm in Homer its special movement from verse
to verse” (207), and he attributes the difference in Apollonius and Virgil to
their writing out their verses without haste, whereas Homer’s traditional
formulaic technique enabled him to put his spoken verse together rapidly
and his need for speed in verse-making pushed him into the “adding”
style of “unperiodic” enjambement. Parry goes on to discuss briefly how
enjambement in Homer is related to the use of formulaic phrases, pointing
out the rarity of enjambement between an adjective and its noun (unless the
adjective can be understood as a substantive).
Lord 1948 compares enjambement in South Slavic heroic poems,
and from an analysis of 2400 verses finds that 44.5% show
no enjambement, 40.6% show “unperiodic,” and only 14.9% “necessary”
enjambement. He compares the types of “necessary” enjambement in South
Slavic poetry with the types found in Homer, finding the Homeric style has
far more devices for continuing the thought over the end of the line, especially
its use of participles and complementary infinitives and the possibility of
beginning a new thought at the bucolic diaeresis and continuing it into the
next line.
Both Kirk and I worked on enjambement in independent articles
which appeared in the same year. Kirk 1966 analyzed all 867 verses of Iliad
16, and gives a table showing totals of features such as types of enjambement,
stops and pauses at verse-end and at the main caesural positions, runover
words, and sentences of four or more verses. He refines Parry’s categories
and terminology, using “progressive” for Parry’s possibly misleading
“unperiodic” enjambement and subdividing Parry’s “necessary” category
into three types: “periodic,” in which (for example) a subordinate clause
fills one verse and the main clause follows in the next; “integral,” in which
the sense overruns the verse-end and no kind of pause or punctuation is
possible between the successive verses; and “violent” enjambement, when
the verse-end separates a preposition or a preceding adjective or dependent
genitive from its noun. These types are further modified in his discussion
and tabulation, and he examines in particular the “cumulation” or addition
of further phrases or clauses to a sentence already potentially complete. His
figures for Iliad 16 show 332 non-enjambed lines (38.3%), 248 instances
of “progressive” (28.6%), 106 of “periodic” (12.2%), 181 of “integral”
(20.9%), the last including 3 cases of “violent” enjambement (0.35%).
My own study of the positioning of words and formulae in Homeric
verse (Edwards 1966) makes a similar distinction between two types of
“necessary” enjambement, and analyzes the grammatical structure of the
instances in Iliad 1 and Odyssey 17. The kinds of “harsh” enjambement
(Kirk’s “violent” category) are also analyzed grammatically and reasons
suggested for its occurrence in particular instances, with some comparisons
between Homeric usage and that of Apollonius and Quintus of Smyrna.
“Unperiodic” enjambement and the various kinds of runover word are also
discussed, the results confirming Bassett’s idea of its contribution to the
smooth progression of the sense but showing that it may draw emphasis
from its position in a way he did not
allow for. Other sections examine sentences which begin at the mid-verse
caesura or bucolic diaeresis and enjamb into the following verse. It is
suggested that a new sentence beginning at the bucolic diaeresis, where
often a conventional formulaic word or phrase could have been used
instead, shows special skill on the part of the poet. Glavičić 1970 studies
the grammatical constructions of enjambing sentences in Homer, dividing
them into eight groups and concluding with a brief account of three ways
in which the thought is developed; his second article (1971) extends the
same examination to Hesiod, finding that in the latter the constructions are
smoother and more uniform, with less tension between meter and syntax.
Clayman and Van Nortwick 1977 challenged Parry’s statistics on
the grounds that his samples were not random, that he used only the Iliad,
Odyssey, and Argonautica, and that he failed to test his results for statistical
significance. They provide new figures for Parry’s categories, based on a
random sample of one-tenth of the verses of the Iliad and Odyssey, onefifth of the Argonautica, and the whole text of the Theogony, Works and
Days, and Shield of Heracles, the four long Homeric Hymns, Aratus’
Phaenomena, Callimachus’ Hymns, and Theocritus’ Idylls. They find a
higher proportion of “necessary” enjambement in the Iliad and Odyssey
than Parry did, and claim that Parry’s stress on “unperiodic” enjambement
as characteristically Homeric and the result of oral verse-making is false, as
according to their own figures the difference is not statistically significant.
Barnes 1979 shows that the differences between their figures and Parry’s for
lines with no enjambement result from a different definition, and provides
more accurate figures (according to Parry’s categories) for all the poems
mentioned, based not on samples but on examination of the whole of the
works (using E. Lyding’s unpublished 1949 Bryn Mawr dissertation for the
Iliad and Odyssey). (For the poems not examined by Cantilena [see below]
these figures are the most accurate available.) Many of the differences are
statistically significant. They show a decrease in the proportion of lines
with no enjambement in the later poems, and an increase in necessary
enjambement; “unperiodic” enjambement is lower in the Argonautica than
in Homer, but higher in Theocritus’ Idylls, and so is an unreliable criterion
for chronology or oral composition. Barnes suggests that the significantly
higher percentage of verses without enjambement in the earlier poems is a
result of the
presence of formulae, which are a product of the oral tradition, and so
Parry’s assertion of a correlation between enjambement characteristics and
oral composition is correct.
G. P. Edwards (1971:93-100) gives detailed figures (using Parry’s
categories) for enjambement in each 100 lines of Hesiod’s works, placing
him firmly beside Homer. Peabody (1975:125-43) analyzes the syntactic
structures in Hesiod, the linkage of sense across caesurae of the verse,
and the use of enjambement, discussing particular cases in the Works and
Days and comparing the structure of Sanskrit epic. His Appendix III, a
structural listing of all verses in the Works and Days, includes indications of
enjambement. In his edition of the Hymn to Demeter, Richardson (1974:33133) discusses Parry’s enjambement figures for Homer, G. P. Edwards’ for
Hesiod, and his own (in Parry’s categories) for the longer Homeric Hymns;
he notes that “violent” enjambement between adjective and noun occurs
five times in the Hymn to Demeter, all the result of adaptation of formulae,
and is very doubtful that this suggests a “literary” poet. Van Nortwick 1976
examines enjambement in the Hymn to Hermes.
Cantilena 1980 supersedes much of the previous work, and provides
the best figures now available for the works he studies (Iliad 9, Odyssey
12, Homeric Hymns, Batrachomyomachia, and the Hymns of Callimachus).
He prints his analysis of the enjambement in these poems line by line in an
Appendix, following the system used by Kirk (with minor refinements).
He explains the differences between his figures and Kirk’s, e.g. in nonenjambing verses (Kirk 25.95%, Cantilena 36.53%), by the different nature
of subject-matter and amount of dialogue in the books he uses and in the
Patrocleia (used by Kirk). But “periodic” enjambement is about the same
(12-13%). In only 7 of the 26 categories listed by Cantilena does Homer
differ from Callimachus by 5% or more; in one of these the figures are
too small to be significant, and in the other six, the Homeric Hymns agree
closely with Homer, not with Callimachus. The percentage of lines without
enjambement does not vary much in any of the poems studied (35-39%),
except in the Batrachomyomachia, where it rises to 44%. Progressive
enjambement is also fairly constant (Homer 31%, Callimachus 28.6%).
Obviously no distinction between oral and written composition is possible
on these grounds, and Cantilena well observes that Homer seems to use
enjambement less because of his formulaic style: a sentence often begins
(for example) autar
Achilleus. . . . and enjambs, but the familiarity makes the enjambement
hardly noticeable. Cantilena finds “violent” enjambement in about 0.8%
of Homeric verses and about 4.9% of those of Callimachus, and is afraid
that the difference of 4 percentage points is small (p. 25); but his figures
really mean that less than 1 verse in 100 in the Homeric poems shows such
enjambement compared to nearly 5 verses in 100 in Callimachus, so the
phenomenon occurs five times as often. In Homer and the Homeric Hymns,
“violent” enjambement comes about through the dislocation or modification
of formulae, and it is easy to show a close formulaic connection between
the last word of the verse and the enjambing ones. But in Callimachus’
Hymns, despite the pale echoes of formulae, the syntax is articulated very
differently, in a way which Cantilena finds inconceivable in oral poetry:
“Negli Inni di Callimaco enjambement violenti, Spaltungen ed iperbati di
vario grado vanno spesso insieme, fino a combinazioni talmente complesse
da riuscire inconcepibili per un poeta improvvisatore e incomprensibili
ad un semplice ascoltatore” (pp. 31-32). The Batrachomyomachia (which
announces itself as a written work) has significantly more non-enjambing
lines than Homer, whereas Callimachus has less than Homer; only in
“progressive” enjambement is the Batrachomyomachia significantly closer
to Callimachus than to Homer, and Cantilena rightly thinks this confirms
his view that enjambement is not enough to distinguish oral style from
its imitation. It may be added that Barnes’ figures show a wide difference
between Iliad 3 (461 verses) and Iliad 19 (424 verses) in non-enjambing
lines (55.9% to 41.4%) and in lines with “necessary” enjambement (19.6%
to 32.3%), so it is only on the largest scale that differences in total figures
have any real meaning. The rhapsode thinks “hexametrically,” as Cantilena
says, and only in unusual cases avails himself of the “violent” enjambement
which is much more common in literate poets; but Homer’s liking for a fresh
start to a sentence or clause at the bucolic diaeresis must not be ignored.
Barnes 1979
H. R. Barnes. “Enjambement and Oral Composition.” Transactions of the American
Philological Association, 109:1-10.
Bassett 1926
S. E. Bassett. “The So-called Emphatic Position of the Runover Word in the Homeric
Hexameter.” Transactions of the American Philological Association, 57:116-48.
Cantilena 1980
M. Cantilena. Enjambement e poesia esametrica orale: una verifica. Quaderni del giornale
filologico Ferrarese, 1. Ferrara: Tosi.
Clayman and Van Nortwick 1977
D. L. Clayman and T. Van Nortwick. “Enjambement in Greek Hexameter Poetry.”
Transactions of the American Philological Association, 107:85-92.
G. P. Edwards 1971
G. P. Edwards. The Language of Hesiod in its Traditional Context. Oxford: Blackwell.
Chapter VII.
M. W. Edwards 1966
M. W. Edwards. “Some Features of Homeric Craftsmanship.” Transactions of the American
Philological Association, 97:115-79.
Glavičić 1970
B. Glavičić. “Su alcune deviazioni dalla norma, ‘Verso-Proposizione’ in Omero.” Živa
antika, 20:15-53 (in Serbo-Croatian with Italian résumé).
Glavičić 1971
__________. “La struttura del verso e della proposizione in Esiodo.” Živa antika, 21:65102 (in Serbo-Croatian with Italian résumé).
Kirk 1966
G. S. Kirk. “Verse-structure and Sentence-structure in Homer.” Yale Classical Studies,
20:105-52. Rpt. (“somewhat shortened and simplified”) in Homer and the Oral Tradition.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976. pp. 146-82.
Lord 1948
A. B. Lord. “Homer and Huso III: Enjambement in Greek and Southslavic Heroic Song.”
Transactions of the American Philological Association, 79:113-24.
Parry 1929
M. Parry. “The Distinctive Character of Enjambement in Homeric Verse.” Transactions of
the American Philological Association, 57:200-20. Rpt. in The Making of Homeric Verse.
Ed. Adam Parry. Oxford: Clarendon. pp. 251-65.
Peabody 1975
B. Peabody. The Winged Word: A Study in the Technique of Ancient Greek Oral Composition
as Seen Principally through Hesiod’s Works and Days. Albany: State University of New
York Press.
Richardson 1974
N. J. Richardson. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Van Nortwick 1976
T. Van Nortwick. “The Homeric Hymn to Hermes: A Study in Early Greek Hexameter
Style.” Dissertation Abstracts, 36:6073A.
Stanford University
I should like to express my appreciation to David Sullivan, Selector for Classics in the
Stanford Library, for his invaluable help; and to others of the Library staff. It would have been
impossible to complete this work without the word-processor made available to me under a program
set up by the Dean of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford.